The ascent to power of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, claiming itself a party of dalits and backwards, has once again brought the question of the legitimacy of the slogan of a ‘dalit party' to focus in the political discourse, having an added importance for Marxist parties. Here is a humble attempt to give an analysis of what this slogan means in essence.
Ambedkarism, to which all the so-called dalit parties of today owe their allegiance, emerged on the political scenario of India during the pre-independence period, as a native variety of bourgeois-liberalism, pampered and nurtured in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, Lincoln's and Gray's inns and sponsored under the aegis of world capitalism.
Around the end of the second decade of the last century when bourgeois liberalism was fast losing its vitality on a world scale in the face of the advance of revolutionary Marxism, the October proletarian revolution in Russia had already shaken world capitalism to its hilt.
Ambedkarism, immediately found itself engulfed in the prairie fires of the National liberation movement, and faced with a politically charged proletariat, the bulk of which was derived from the dalit castes. Instead of calling upon the dalit masses to assume the leadership of the liberation struggle by forming its most militant wing, and to isolate the forces of the old society, Ambedkarites started manoeuvres to douse the flames of struggle by openly preaching dalits to withhold from the liberation movement, and rather focus on petty reforms against the social evils inside the caste structures. It called for open support for colonial rule, which in its opinion was the apostle of all great virtues, and for which it had all appreciations. It had an infatuation not only towards the liberal ideology of the English Bourgeois, but virtually towards everything which belonged to ‘British Sahibs' i.e. the English language, education, etiquette and even an English suit; an attitude literally befitting a colonial slave, taking pride in mimicking its Masters! With such fascination towards colonial ideas and possessions, it simultaneously had an avowed antipathy, rather adversity towards Marxism and revolution, which it never even attempted to hide, but rather proclaimed openly. The first thing it demanded from the dalit masses was complete desertion of the anti-colonial liberation struggle, and rather to march quietly under its leadership.
Shuddering at the mighty waves of the revolutionary storm encompassing the globe, and its reflections at home, the colonial bourgeois was in dire need of such a voluntary service corps. It immediately found in Ambedkarism the political device to annihilate the revolutionary mood of the dalit masses, to get them to desist from entering political struggle. In return, Ambedkarism found all-out support from the ruling English capitalists and a ready sponsorship from its colonial regime, to facilitate its blooming on the political surface.
It thus came forward as a definite political tendency translated into practice through political parties - the so-called dalit parties - such as the Independent Labour Party, and then the Republican Party of India. As revolution was in the air at that time and the dalits were also charged with it, these dalit parties could not make a big stride forward and the dalits continued to participate in the national struggle.
However, Ambedkar himself was nominated for the Bombay Legislative Council in 1926 and then was appointed by the colonialists to the Bombay Presidency Committee in 1928 to assist the hated Simon Commission. He was appointed to the Defence Advisory Committee and then became Minister of Labour in the Viceroy's Executive Council.
Ambedkar who acquired his education in New York and London, financed by scholarships from princely rulers - Gayakwads - served first as Military Secretary to Baroda State, and then got a professorship at Bombay College with the help of Lord Sydenham, former Governor of Bombay. For his entire life, Ambedkar remained an avowed supporter of bourgeois liberalism and saw the path to liberation for the dalits under the leadership of the world bourgeois.
Then came the historic betrayal of the people in 1947 at the hands of the Indian Capitalists and Landlords. The renegade national bourgeois deserted the struggle to assume power in India in 1947, not through an overturn but through a peaceful arrangement with the colonialists, in total betrayal of the National Struggle, not as an independent class, but as agents of World Capitalism. It then constituted itself as the national ruling class in conjunction with the landlords, under overall domination of World Capitalism. The Ambedkarites, happily became part of this colonial plan, and assisted it with all sincerity.
Nothing after 1947 was left to be shared in common between the bourgeois and the toiling masses, much less a common political platform - a political party. The bourgeois, though, had deserted the working people long before, to join the ranks of world capitalism, to become its appendage. Yet, in order to cowe the people to follow its political lead, and thereby place itself at the head of the entire people, it continued to maintain the political parties under its domination, of varied shades, big and small, local and regional, religious and caste-ist, communal and secular, giving them deceptive slogans and banners, to conceal their actual composition, allegiance and avowed subservience to its class, and to deceptively pose them as people's parties.
However, the irony is that the retarded growth of capitalism, coupled with the historic backwardness and the age-old marginalisation of the dalit masses, did not permit fulfilment of the aspirations of the dalit masses which germinated and flowered during the liberation movement. Merely permitting the downtrodden castes to enter into the mainstream of development to compete in cutthroat competition was not going to bear any fruit.
It was only through the introduction of artificial tools of ‘reserved quotas' in public employment and education - a state device to drag dalit communities to the whirlpool of the market - that an upper crust could emerge within these castes, though at a very slow pace, over and above the rest of the downtrodden mass.
This upper crust grew gradually into a petty-bourgeois upper layer, which gradually segregated itself from the rest of the dalit mass, to form a separate class in itself - the dalit bourgeois - while the masses left behind remained overwhelmingly proletarian. Prosperity at one end and poverty and degradation at the other - this was all capitalism could have delivered and actually delivered to the dalit masses.
With the emergence of an upper layer among the dalit masses, they de facto, ceased to exist as a caste, splitting into two antagonistic classes - bourgeois and proletarian. This rupture in the bonds of cohesiveness and uniformity in social composition and economic conditions of life, splitting hitherto homogenous dalit communities into antagonistic social classes of haves and have-nots, bourgeois and proletarian, ultimately led to the abandonment of the proletarian masses by the dalit bourgeois, to join the bandwagon of the bourgeois class in general, irrespective of the caste alignment.
Once the dalit bourgeois came into existence, it had its very own and clearly defined political role and purpose as a class, separate from the mass of dalits, which it shared with the bourgeois class in general. It naturally contained the political aspirations of its own class - purely bourgeois in nature - which it had been forcibly deprived of through the ages, being part of the downtrodden caste.
This layer tried its luck within ordinary bourgeois parties, but only to realize that given its social and economic status in society in general and consequently in political parties in particular, it could not but be a hostage inside the parties of the national bourgeois and would creep up only to the lowest rungs of these parties. Thus, as a more intelligent and elevated assertion of its separate identity and claim to its enhanced share within bourgeois political power, it laid an independent claim to the leadership of the dalit masses, the same masses it had recently deserted while emerging as an upper crust, therefrom. It asserted and fortified this leadership upon the dalit bourgeois parties, both old and new, perfecting them to work under its own and exclusive class domination and command.
The dalit bourgeois acts through these parties, terming them to be the parties of the whole caste, falsely pretending to turn a blind eye on the division of the dalits into dalit proletarian masses and dalit bourgeoisie. It deliberately obliterates the process of disintegration of castes set in motion by capitalist development among the dalit communities, dividing them between the antagonistic social classes of haves and have-nots, i.e. the thin layer of bourgeois and the vast majority of proletarians, who have nothing in common with each other except the formal identity of caste, its outer shell, which acts only as a lever to put the dalit bourgeois in power.
Through its parties, the dalit bourgeoisie imposed its political hegemony over millions of dalit masses, in the name of caste unity, but in reality to secure the hidden goals, exclusively of its own class. The prolonged social oppression of millions of dalit at the hands of Brahman society, which kept them down at the margins of civilization for centuries to maintain the feudal order, was seen by the dalit bourgeoisie as a ready-made device to articulate its own class goals by calling upon the dalit masses to follow its lead. Even then the early dalit parties could not gather much moss and remained almost marginalized, with the party of the national bourgeoisie, the Congress, holding sway. Ambedkar himself contested for the Lok Sabha in the 1952 general elections, which he lost by a big margin, and was then nominated to Rajya Sabha.
However, over the last two decades, which have been the period of general turmoil and crisis for the liberal bourgeoisie, with the masses becoming more and more disillusioned with it, seeking ever new avenues to vent their anger, the parties led by the second generation of dalit bourgeois, gained the momentum, with a considerable swing among dalit masses in their favour.
If Ambedkar can be said to be the early mentor of the slogan for a ‘dalit party', the ‘new turks' Paswan, Mayawati, Udit Raj are the Ambedkarites of the second generation. These leaders of the dalit parties continue to assert politics in caste terms, with deliberate blinding towards class divisions inside the castes. They cleverly claim to represent the dalit proletariat at the same time when they actually represent the dalit bourgeoisie. They vow to emancipate the dalit masses through the ‘magic wand' of Ambedkar-ism, without touching upon the foundations of capitalism, upon which, their own politics rests.
Mesmerized by the spell of euphoria for ‘dalit power', a fall-out of false political rhetoric, the dalit masses start to look upon the accession of an avowed ‘Dalit Party' to power, with bright hopes that such ascent of a ‘Dalit Party', would bestow upon them what could not be achieved under earlier regimes, due to their domination by the upper-caste leadership. Under this palpable illusion, the dalit masses throw their colossal support behind this or that ‘Dalit Party'- vehicles of the dalit bourgeois - catapulting them to power.
The false parody of a ‘dalit party' is then turned on its head, as soon as the party comes to hold the strings of power, either independently or in collaboration with other bourgeois parties. The slogan of a ‘dalit party' immediately exhausts itself and the objective constraints compel such a party to come out in its true colours and tear away its false mask. Thus, as soon as these boasters of caste slogans ride to power, they do this at the cost of their blatant exposure as just another wing - a dalit regiment - of the bourgeois political army.
There hardly exists a dalit party, which, after its coming to power or even in anticipation of it, has not so exposed itself by openly collaborating with the bourgeois parties, fielding bourgeois elements on its tickets, and awarding them with ministerial berths, giving plum posts and tickets to Parliament and Assemblies in exchange for money etc. etc. They sell themselves, and consequently the dalit masses following their lead, to serve the petty interests of their own class. Once in power, instead of doing anything good for the dalit masses, they openly join hands with bourgeois elements, even the worst of them, irrespective of their caste affiliations and serve them with all enthusiasm and dedication. As far as the masses are concerned, this leadership kills their independent initiative, isolates them from other sections of the proletariat, and after binding them hand and foot converts them into its tutelage, a mass of eternal slaves. The slogan of a dalit party then unfolds itself in total fiasco, producing only another party of the bourgeoisie! The poor masses, who under the influence of the demagogy of their leaders had started to nurture bright hopes of a better future, once the dalit party ascends to power, are left in the lurch, to face their own destiny.
As soon as these Ambedkarites, false leaders of the dalits, get some foothold in the political game, using the proletarian dalit masses as a springboard, the slogan for a separate dalit party starts to drown, clearing the way for the cherished goal of these leaders, to get into the front ranks of the bourgeois army, to become the leaders of the ‘bourgeois class' as a whole, instead only of its dalit wing.
This explains the recent rhetoric of Mayawati that the BSP is not only the party of the dalit castes but of all castes and that she would soon be at the head of a Union Government. The party which had started its political voyage claiming to be a party of pariahs (untouchables), turned 90 degrees, to claim itself to be a party of all backward castes and further turned 180 degrees, claiming itself to be a party of ‘Sarvjan' (the entire people), and thus completely deserting the slogan of a ‘dalit party'. And what is this party of ‘Sarvjan', if not just another party of the bourgeois class? Hence came the final somersault by the BSP, in abandoning the slogan of a dalit party, to form a bourgeois government - the government of all castes!
An added advantage exists for these ‘dalit parties'. The upper crust of the dalit castes they represent, is ‘bourgeois' only in relation to the proletarian masses, while in relation to the National Bourgeoisie, it is still petty-bourgeois in its social composition, as not developed economically, socially and culturally enough to touch the levels of the National bourgeois. Thus these parties of the dalit bourgeoisie, can easily dupe the masses by demagogically counterposing themselves to the parties of the big bourgeoisie, by drawing false oppositional lines against them, thereby disguising its own class character and its real place within bourgeois society, behind the facade of false rhetoric in the name of caste unity.
In this way the parties of the dalit bourgeoisie may hold sway among the dalit masses, by creating a misconception that they are anti-capitalist, fooling the dalit masses to march behind them, while they parade as part of the global army of the bourgeois. The fact, however, remains that these dalit parties are nothing but agencies of the big bourgeois, and are subservient to capitalism. They only charge the Capitalists with their own bill for their efforts in organizing the dalit Brigade for the bourgeois army, training and maintaining it and pressing it into the service of World capitalism. Apart from this, these dalit parties occupy the same place and play the same role in politics as that of the parties of the national bourgeoisie. All their efforts and ventures lie in fooling the dalit masses to remain its lackey, and consequently a lackey of the world bourgeoisie, of which the dalit bourgeois itself is a part. They dupe the dalit masses with false slogans of caste identity, which they themselves abandoned long ago to join the bandwagon of the bourgeois, lure them to march under the leadership of the dalit bourgeois, while organizing themselves into an aristocratic crust in command of the bourgeois dalit parties. The dalit masses are used merely as a propeller to push forward the gunboat of the bourgeois parties. This is the place that the dalit masses occupy for the bourgeois parties.
There cannot simply be a dalit party, i.e. a party representing the two antagonistic social classes within the dalits, the dalit bourgeois and dalit proletarians. In the same way that the upper caste bourgeoisie has done nothing good for the upper caste proletariat, the dalit bourgeois can do nothing for the dalit proletariat. And as the upper caste proletariat cannot have a Party in common with the upper caste bourgeois, the dalit proletariat cannot have a Party in common with the dalit bourgeoisie. Every single Nation, every nationality, every caste already stands split into antagonistic classes of proletarians and bourgeois, and no single party can represent the two classes at a time. It has essentially to belong to this or that class. The bourgeois parties, being the parties of a thin minority, as compared to the great ocean of working people, consciously and zealously conceal their class character and base by wearing deceptive masks to falsely pose themselves as the party of the ‘entire people' and ‘above the classes', to befool and lure the working classes to follow their leadership, the leadership of the bourgeois, the leadership of the class of their enemy, against which the proletarian masses should otherwise put up a struggle of life and death.
The political manoeuvre in the name of caste unity, finding abstract expression in the political arena through the slogan of a dalit party, virtually serves as a tool in the hands of the dalit bourgeois to induce a clever divide in the proletarian army, by insulating the dalit proletarian mass from the international army of the proletariat and instead make it follow the lead of its own bourgeois, the dalit bourgeois, virtually a dalit section of the global army of bourgeois, the army of the bourgeois in whose front ranks stands the international bourgeois followed by the national big bourgeois and then local and petty bourgeois.
The leadership of these dalit parties, while virtually working as political agency for the bourgeois class in general, pretends to be the party of the whole dalit caste, instead of its upper crust, the bourgeois class.
These clever efforts, however, continue to be aimed at achieving one thing, i.e. to put the power at the disposal of the bourgeois, an aim it shares in common with the leadership of all the bourgeois parties. Given this common motive of the dalit and upper caste leaderships, it remains of no relevance or practical importance for the bourgeois or the proletariat, as to who holds the reigns of power, Mayawati, Mulayam Singh or Kalyan Singh.
But then what is the logic behind the formation of a separate dalit party of the bourgeois? This logic has to be primarily sought in the petty aspirations of the dalit bourgeois to get a bigger share in power, using the mass of dalit poor as a lever to capture power, and simultaneously in the tendency of the bourgeois to politically organise itself at the head of separate mass platoons, as Englishmen say "keeping one's eggs in different baskets", but finally constituting a single bourgeois army. All the bourgeois political parties, taken together constitute such an army, while separately they form the battalions of this political army. It is the concerted effort of all these parties which keeps the political power at the command and disposal of the bourgeois, constituting it as a ruling class. To organize in multiple battalions is a tactical move to fool the masses, making them submit to the leadership of different sections of the bourgeois, in the name of caste, community, religion and ethnic identity and ultimately pushing them all onto the heap of raw material for the profit making industry.
The one who better fools the larger mass for a longer time, makes its claim on the bourgeois state machine and ascends to power. This is the logic of all contests among the parties of the bourgeois, all this having no relevance for the proletarian masses.
The bourgeois leadership of the dalit party cleverly preaches the dalit proletariat, in the name of caste, to insulate itself from the proletariat of upper castes, and instead march under its command. But for itself, it unhesitatingly joins hands with the leadership of the bourgeois parties, without paying heed to its caste identity, integrating itself as an unalienable part of the bourgeois regime, and hands over the poor masses under its leadership, bound hand and foot to the bourgeois class. It fills the hearts of the dalit proletariat with venom against the upper caste proletariat, but itself forms alliances to share power with parties, apparently under upper caste domination - Congress, SP and even the BJP, the avowed anti-dalit party.
All bourgeois parties, including the dalit parties, in their composition reflect the true mirror image of bourgeois society, from which they emerge and in which they exist. Money plays the all-important and decisive role in these parties. Monetary worth of individuals decides their place and fate in the party. Thus the bourgeoisie conveniently retains control of these parties - whether dalit or non-dalit - directly or by keeping its leaders on its own pay-roll. The rank and file, the people from lower classes, are only made to act as a lever to elevate the dalit bourgeoisie to power.
It hardly makes a difference that a dalit party has assimilated under its wings a mass of dalit poor, so long as its leadership belongs to the upper crust, the bourgeois, who actually dominate the vast majority of the rank and file through the money and power in its hands. It is through this magical power of gold that the bourgeois ensures its hegemony in and above the party, cornering not only the prime posts in the party but all the major state contracts and nominations for legislative, administrative bodies.
The deceptive caste slogans, still politically potent, continue to succeed in luring the dalit masses, to throw support behind these parties led by the dalit bourgeoisie, in the hope of a better tomorrow. The general weakness of the proletarian movement, and its resultant failure to integrate the dalit masses - the real proletarians, the first line fighters for social revolution in India - under its banner, plays its part and contributes by leaving dalit proletarians in the hands of dalit bourgeois.
The slogan of a dalit party, which has already turned into a fiasco, corrupts the class-consciousness of the dalit proletariat, by welding it with its enemy, the bourgeois. It prevents the dalit proletariat from realizing that for its liberation it has to fight not only against the bourgeois of the upper castes but against its own bourgeois, the dalit bourgeois. Its historic mission, the wiping out of capitalism from the face of the earth, it shares in common with the proletariat of the upper caste, and against the bourgeois class as a whole.
Having come to power through a non-revolutionary way, the bourgeois has adapted itself to all predatory social institutions and relics of bygone ages, prime among them the caste oppression, subordinating them to its own exploitative system based upon bourgeois institutions. The bourgeoisie, whether it emerges from dalits or non-dalit castes, is not at all interested in elimination of outmoded institutions, including caste oppression, the relic of medievalism. The proletariat is the only force seriously interested in a social revolution, which by overturning the agrarian relations would radically transform rural society, wiping out the very basis of caste oppression and discrimination.
The dalit proletariat, a victim of the double yoke of class and caste oppression, and thus the most ardent and radical fighter for social revolution, would not commit mistake for long in identifying its real friends and foes. It would come out of the mirage of the slogan of a dalit party, secede from the ranks of these bourgeois parties, organized under the false banner of a dalit party, to close its ranks with that of the world proletariat, marching under the great banner of proletarian revolution.
The slogan of a ‘dalit party' as advanced by the Ambedkarite elite, is nothing but a virtual hindrance on the path of integration of the proletariat of all castes, religions and nationalities under the banner of social revolution, and serves as a virtual trap for blindfolding the dalit proletariat to follow the lead of its bourgeois instead of uniting itself with the army of the world proletariat, on whose banner are inscribed the words "Workers of the World, Unite!"