Annihilation Of Caste

‘Did Marx Say So?’


I have read the critique of Mr Yarlagadda Venkatrao (July 4, 2016) on my article 'Annihilation of Caste' which appeared in Nava Telangana (June 13, 16, 20 & 23).

When I used the expression 'equal division of labour' in my article, Venkatrao questioned, 'Did Marx say so?' We must consider this question first; other issues will follow later.

The people engaged in 'a debate' are not enemies to one another. lmportantly, I am one among those who desire 'annihilation of caste'. In this debate, therefore, it becomes mandatory for both the sides to listen to each other, pose questions when necessary, and modify our perspectives appropriately.

We must first consider whether or not Marx and Engels proposed that a single individual must perform different kinds of labor.

" communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic." (The German Ideology, Moscow edition, 1976, p. 53).

"In a communist society, there are no painters but only people who engage in painting among other activities" (The German Ideology, p. 418).

The essence of these words is not that a person must perform all the four or five different types of jobs on the same day. The work will be organized into a fine-tuned work schedule formulated after gaining several experiences and progressive learning. The communist society must transform the division of labour of the past societies which mandates that an individual must perform a single type of labor all the lifetime of that individual—this is the essence of the writings of Marx and Engels. Their words imply that every individual must perform both manual and intellectual labors. Marx and Engels, however, did not provide details as to how many kinds of labors a single individual must perform or how often these labors must be changed and the like. The communist society must formulate these details based on its own experiences.

[In my Telugu original of An-Introduction to Marx's 'Capital', I expressed my opinion on activities like 'hunting' as follows: In the first quotation, hunting and fishing are included. Should we nave foods of this kind forever? We cannot blame those people who are already habituated to such foods presently. In future, however, it is important that the children are not introduced to such foods. The absence of cruelty towards animals is desirable for the communist society.]

Let us consider a few other points from Marx and Engels on 'division of labour' and 'equality':
"...a different form of activity, of labour, does not justify inequality, confers no privileges in respect of possession and enjoyment". [The German Ideology, p. 566).

"...the unskilled labourers in a factory... the workmen who function as overseers.... works engineer.... possess labour-powers of different value" (Marx, Theories of Surplus, Vol. 1, p. 411).

"Greek society was founded upon slavery, and had, therefore, for its natural basis, the inequality of men and of their labour-powers" (Capital, vol-l, Moscow edition 1974, p. 65).

"The equalization of the most different kinds of labour can be the result of an abstraction from their inequalities....." (Capital-1, p.78)

In his main work 'Capital', see how Marx describes how the modern capitalist industry transforms the society.

"Modern industry, indeed, compels society, under penalty of death, to replace the detailed-worker of today, crippled by life-long repetition of one and the same trivial operation, and thus reduced to the mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labours, ready to face any change of production, and to whom the different social functions he performs, are but many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers… when the working-class comes into power, as inevitably it must.... There is no doubt that revolutionary ferments, the final result of which is the abolition of the old division of labour, are diametrically opposed to the capitalistic form of production, and to the economic status of the labourer corresponding to that form." (Capital-1, Moscow edition, p. 458).

The old division of labour is something that is in accordance with the exploitative societies and it must be abolished. The revolutionary forces must aim at it.

"......each one being assigned to a single branch of production shackled to it, exploited by it, each having developed only one of the abilities at the cost of all the others and knowing only one branch, or only a branch of a branch of the total production. ....Industry carried on in common and according to plan by the whole of society presupposes moreover people of all-round development, capable of surveying the entire system for production. Thus the division of labour making one man a peasant, another a shoemaker, a third a factory worker, a fourth a stock jobber......will completely disappear." (Engels in 'Principles of Communism', On the Communist Society, Moscow edition, 1981. p. 19).

Lenin's argument
" is necessary to abolish the distinction between town and country, as well as the distinction between manual workers and branin workers." (In 'The Great Beginning', On the Communist Society, p. 116).

This is my reply to the question whether Marx, Engels, and Lenin made any statements regarding 'division of labour'; we can view many more quotes such as these if necessary.

Now, my response to the other comments of Venkatrao.

‘The solutions Ranganayakamma proposes are not based on Marxism’—says Venkatrao. ‘Ranganayakamma fails to grasp what Marx said on division of labour’, he says. There could be a few issues that I may not have grasped; however, I have fully understood the essence of 'division of labour'. Venkatrao, on the contrary, did not explain what Marx said about division of labour. According to Venkatrao, there will not be division of labour at all in the communist society! Based on this, I could claim that 'Venkatrao lacks the fundamental idea about division of labour. In a discussion, if both the sides claim that the other side has failed to understand anything, then, it would become a quarrel, not a 'debate'.

'Division of labour' will exist in any good society. This is because a single person cannot perform all, say hundred kinds of labour necessary for his life. When two people divide these jobs between them, it would be division of labour. The transformation of the unequal division of labour practiced in the exploitative societies into an equal division of labour is the change that must happen in the communist society. From the perspective of equality, we must transform the nature of the division of labour. The very meaning of the labels such as 'socialism' and 'communism' is the egalitarian society. These are the societies that will transform the human relations based on equality. Such a transformation is possible. On our part, we must understand why and how such a path is possible and adopt that path. If the Master is reluctant to give up his masterhood, then the labourers must remove it and make him perform labor. If the intellectual workers are unwilling to perform the manual labors, the manual workers must make their efforts from the perspective of self-respect and equality; such efforts indicate their revolutionary consciousness. In summary, when one understands the basics of 'exploitation of labour' and 'equal division of labour', one would realize that matters such as elimination of system of commodities and money are integral phases of the revolutionary struggle.

Venkatrao: 'Ranganayakamma portrays the changes that must take place in the communist society as the changes that must happen in the existing society itself in order to arrive the communist society'.

Venkatrao would not have made this criticism if only he read my statement applying a little bit more responsibility. Did I demand an immediate implementation of a change in 'division of labour'? On the contrary, to implement such a change, I proposed a sequence of developments including: (1) The liberation of the entire labouring population from exploitation of labour and (2) the formation of a system where every person will perform some manual labors and a few intellectual labors according to a planned work schedule—this was what I proposed [Additionally, I have made it explicit that 'two fundamental changes must happen in a society containing or not irrespective of whether there exists caste system or not'.

'Until now, nowhere in the world, there exists an egalitarian society formed and readily available. The theory that suggests the formation of the egalitarian society, however, is available'.—This is what I stated. I did not suggest that the changes must be implemented right away while the present society continues to remain the same.

Venkatrao: "When the division of labour itself is creating inequality, why talk about 'equal division of labour'?"

It is not the general and natural division of labour that creates inequality. The inequality is manifested in many novel forms due to the nature of the division of labour that began in the exploitative societies and assumed the most perverted form in the capitalist society. The solution to this problem is to transform the division of labour appropriately from the perspective of equality. The human beings cannot influence the changes that happen in nature, but they can rectify the faults of the society. It is necessary to understand issues like 'the use value' and 'the exchange value'.

The exchange value; of the manual labors is naturally low, and that of the intellectual labors is higher if two different people must receive an equal amount of exchange value (income), the labors they perform must be equal first. In contrast, if anyone argues that all the people must receive equal income regardless of the labors they perform, those people do not have an idea what 'value' is. Only through Marx's 'Capital' can one understand that different labors carry different values and that to assign a uniform value to different kinds of labor is not possible in any society. If there are points that are not clear in 'Capital', we have to discuss them. See the following statement of Marx:

"Since.... individual labour-powers require different degrees of training, and must therefore have different values. Manufacture, therefore, develops a hierarchy of labour-powers, to which corresponds a scale of wages". (Capital-1, p. 330).

Venkatrao : 'The division of labour will end when the individual property ends'.

Did Marx say so? Why did Venkatrao not show any evidence in support of this statement? This is not what Marx said. When a person performs a single kind of labor and receives the entire value of that labor, we may consider this as ‘the abolition of exploitation of labour’. What, then, occurs is not abolition of the division of labour. The nature of the division of labour can acquire an egalitarian character, but 'division of labour' itself can never be abolished. Abolition of division of labour implies that every person must perform all the labors necessary for his or her sustenance. Such a notion is irrational.

See an expression from Engels :

".....given a rational division of labour among all....." (The Housing Question, Moscow edition, p. 26)
The implication of Engels's words is not the abolition of the division of labour itself but that the division of labour must undergo a rational transformation.

" particular the old division of labour must disappear". (Engels, in Anti-Duhring, in 'On the Communist society', p. 45)

What must disappear is 'the old division of labour', not the division of labour itself.

In his critique, Venkatrao attributed a statement to Marx -that in the communist society, the members will choose the tasks not in accordance with a plan but according to their liking and perform these tasks to their satisfaction.

If people choose only the tasks of their liking, then, who will perform jobs which are not to their liking such as cleaning the dirt (scavenging)? Every person would say, "I will not do this, I will not do that". Therefore, this path cannot lead to equality. Unless someone is incapacitated for health reasons or due to certain handicap, no person should have the right to evade a specific job connected with manual labours. To perform the bottom most manual labour should be considered as an ethical obligation.

Venkatrao: 'While some people do the intellectual labor and enjoy prosperity, others do manual labor and are condemned to poverty alienated from the wealth that they have created'.

What else did I say then? The intellectual workers can earn a higher income and spend more on sustenance as the intellectual labor contains a higher value. They too are slaves when they have a Master and lack job security. In contrast, the manual labourers cannot even satisfy their basic needs as the manual labor contains a low value. The value of their labor need not necessarily be so low. In the exploitative societies, however, that is how it will be. It is for this reason that the sections of manual laborers must focus on 'the exploitation of labour'. When these sections are not concerned with exploitation of labour and do not think of their emancipation, will the professors, doctors, scientists, and officers, bother about exploitation of labour—even though they too have their own Masters?

Venkatrao: 'As far as I know, nowhere did Marx use the word 'labour relations'. When he referred to the relations between the Master and the labourer, he included these relations as an integral part of the production relations'.

The expression 'labour relations' is a synonym of the expression 'production relations'. The Master does not perform labour at the place of production. It is the workers who do. This is what happens at the work place even if we use the term 'labour relations'. The term 'Labour relations' can be understood easily. No harm befalls when we substitute Marx's expression 'the materialist conception of history' with the phrase 'historical materialism'. The meaning is not distorted. Likewise, if we call 'dialectical materialism' instead of Marx's expression of 'materialistic dialectics'—no harm is done. Based on what Marx said in Capital (vol. 3) with reference to expansion of foreign trade in the Capitalist Mode of Production and its need for ever expanding market etc., if anyone uses the term 'imperialism' will not be a misinterpretation. It was Engels, Lenin and others who used modified expressions of Marx. Do we ask Engels and Lenin thus, 'Marx did not use these terms! How can you use terms?' Can't we elaborate the theory without distorting it? We can. Is it necessary that one should complain when the term 'production relations' is substituted with a more appropriate word 'labour relations'—as if this act amounts to betraying Marx and committing a grave offense?

Venkatrao: 'The foundation of the caste system will disappear when fundamental changes take place in the economic domain, and the 'dalits' will have an opportunity to leave their caste occupations and enter other occupations'.

What do 'the changes in the economic domain' mean? Is a change in the division of labour a part of these changes or not?

Venkatrao said that the 'dalits' leave 'their caste occupations'. Let us consider the menial jobs that the 'dalits' perform such as the cremation of the carcasses of stray animals, the cleaning of the lavatories, and sweeping the streets and the like. Let us imagine that those people who perform these jobs as caste occupations have given up these occupations. These occupations, nevertheless, must be performed in the society on a regular basis. The society cannot sustain a single day without someone doing these jobs. When the people who perform these tasks as, their occupation abandon these jobs, who will take care of the jobs? If new groups are formed to perform these jobs, will not these new groups be condemned to the pitiful state of the 'dalits'? Performing the lowly tasks, therefore, ought to be the fundamental obligation of every member of society. That means, even the 'dalits' will not be able to abandon these jobs completely. Every person must perform intellectual as well as manual labors. This obligation is a must for the intellectual labourers too. Without such a change, a few sections will be confined to performing these menial jobs whether or not the label 'the caste occupation' is renamed. Educating the reader is important regarding who must perform the abandoned caste occupations and whether or not the society needs such jobs. One must consider this matter as 'debate' and talk about labours.

[Originally appeared in Nava Telangana, July 11 & 14, 2016.Translation: R Udaykumar]

Vol. 50, No.16, Oct 22 - 28, 2017