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Do 'upper caste' Marxists still dislike Dr Ambedkar, consider him reformist, separatist?

By Rajiv Shah 
I was a little amused on reading Bhaskar Sur, a virulent Facebook commentator on Left, noting that “Bengali Marxists” have always hated Dr BR Ambedkar. A rather longish post, running into more than 1,000 words, While Sur observes that, to the “upper caste Marxists”, the “towering Dalit intellectual and lifelong fighter for social justice” was “a stooge of the British trying to divide the proletariat and the nationalist movement at the behest of his masters”. 
This view, he says, was also taken by “Subhas Bose in the Congress and Shyamaprasad Mukherjee in the extreme rightist Hindu Mahasabha”, adding, “The Left were also vehemently against reservation in jobs for Dalits and tribals achieved through hard struggle by Ambedkar and the other leaders of the depressed classes.” In fact, “Marxists saw them not as entitlements but sops and a part of the imperialist conspiracy to drive a wedge through the working class movement.”
Calling Brahminical Left “an extremely regressive force”, Sur goes to to say, “In the name of land reform they introduced a new feudalism...” And when they tried belatedly to industrialize, they were met with “strong opposition from the small land holders but, more than than that, a feudal mindset that is opposed to market, industry or any change.”
In fact, they would quote “from Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Mao, Foucault, Derrida but never from Ambedkar who was all for industrialization, freedom and social democracy”; they “never cared to read Ambedkar or know what he fought for”, says Sur, adding, “Our communists would like sudras to remain small farmers or artisans very much in keeping with their feudal-Brahminical outlook”, which was their “love of villagism and subsistence agriculture.”
Interestingly, Anand Teltumbde, well-known Dalit rights scholar, currently an accused in the infamous Bhima-Koregaon case and an undertrial prisoner, suggests that this view did exist among “earlier communists” who would unremittingly criticised Ambedkar.
Known to be taking a Marxist view of things, Teltumbde says, Ambedkar’s “annoyance” with communists stemmed from CPI’s criticism of Ambedkar by “ideologically refusing the necessity of battling caste, ignoring the conceptual basis of linking other forms of (non-economic) exploitation and continuing with unmindful practices vis-à-vis caste.”
Teltumbde underlines, “Right from his coming to prominence as the leader of the independent Dalit movement, the CPI was angry with him. Instead of befriending Ambedkar, they began attacking him as the divider of the working class, misleader of Dalit masses, opponent of the nationalist movement and a stooge of imperialists.”
In fact, CPI derided him as “the reformist and separatist leader” who kept “the untouchable masses away from the general democratic movement and to foster the illusion that the lot of untouchables could be improved by reliance on imperialism”, the top scholar adds.
I recall in late 1970s when I was in the CPI outfit, People’s Publishing House (PPH), editing manuscripts of Communist scholars. One of the already published books I glanced through then was by WN Kuber’s “Dr. Ambedkar: A Critical Study”, published by PPH.
While I have lost the book, I recall, Kuber was indeed critical of Ambedkar, something that Teltumbde also noted in 2018: “Kuber calls Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism a ‘self-deception’, having channelled the whole movement of workers and peasants led by him into ‘reactionary and metaphysical conceptions’.”
A Marxist scholar, who must have been attached with CPI, Kuber, if I correctly recall, actually thought that Ambedkar did not stand for equal rights for men and women. While googling I couldn’t find the exact quote, a reference to Kuber states, “Kuber observes that Ambedkar was against giving the same education to both boys and girls. Imparting education to girls on par with boys appeared to him waste of time, money and energy.”

Comments

Unknown said…
Unpardonable Crime against #WeThePeopleOfIndia with No #TimeLimit to Redress the Public Grievances of Commoners by #ModiGovt.

https://thewire.in/politics/grievance-redress-law
Prasad Chacko said…
The Communist Parties (not Marxism and its later day extensions) have always been averse to applying the empirical dimensions of local political economy to its ideological articulation in India. In Kerala and Bengal the parties had neatly separated the compulsions of realpolitik from the ideological discourse. In this way the parties could incorporate caste and communal dimensions into their political strategies in order to survive in a bourgeois democratic paradigm. But the ideological discourse continued to ignore the compelling dimensions of caste and gender, dismissing them as 'superstructure' while ineffectively struggling to explain the structural articulation of the ownership of the means of production with Varna. In recent days, there has been an effort to bring in "Jai Bhim - Lal Salaam", again at the electoral strategic level in order to woo Dalit-Bahujans, but without any significant effort to integrate caste (as much as class) as fundamental to communist ideology in India.

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