‘Caste as a Special Feature of Indian Revolution':
An Original Contribution of Vaskar Nandy to Maxism is India

Devabrata Sharma

Comrade Vaskar Nandy made a very fundamental and epoch-making contribution to the Indian Revolution through his theorisation of caste as a structure (both infrastructure and superstructure) of class exploitation. It was a radical departure from the OM (Official Marxist) position on class as a purely economic category. While presenting the paper ‘Caste as a Special Feature of the Indian Revolution’ in the International Seminar on ‘Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and Revolutionary Movements’ held in Hyderabad in 1995, Comrade Nandy also dealt upon the issues of characterising the political economy of India. He had differentiated between basic contradiction and principal contradiction in that historic document. While mentioning the consensus prevailing among the communist revolutionaries about a basic contradiction comprising feudalism and the broad masses of people, he came out more sharply about principal contradiction. At that time he, and his party, the PCC, CPI(ML) had the position that the principal contradiction was between the alliance of imperialism, bureaucratic capitalism and feudalism. Later, he focussed on imperialism as the spearhead of this principal contradiction. Feudalism continued to be one of the basic contradictions. Since then much water has flown down the Ganges. The Indian society has not remained static; rather it is fast moving into the dynamics of world capitalism. Vaskar Nandy again came first to gauge the depth of these ongoing transformation and to opine that India is Semi-capitalist-semi-colonial now. It may be recalled here that the undivided communist party had characterised India as a semi -colonial-semi-feudal country in the early fifties of twentieth century. But this analysis was given a quiet burial during revisionist revival of later decades. The CPI (ML) after its formation in 1969, resurrected the semi-colonial-semifeudal analysis. Decades passed by without any change in this analysis by any of the many Naxalite factions. Exactly three decades after his Hyderabad presentation, Vaskar Nandy was again the pioneer in re-analysing the characterisation of Indian society. Taking into note the deep and far reaching capitalistic transformation of Indian society, he was the first to theorise that feudal land-holding was almost extinct now. Feudalism no more exists as a country-wide primary mode of production. Rather it was already subsumed in the dominant capitalist mode of production, be it imperialist-capitalist or bureaucratic capitalist or national-capitalist. The withering away of feudalism has drastically changed the nature of Indian revolution. It can no more be an agrarian revolution with peasants being in overwhelming majority and the motive force. The numerical majority of

Indian people being working class now, with peasants being in minority, Indian revolution is now supposed and proposed to be a working-class led movement. However, these new and significant additions do not necessarily self-contradict the caste thesis of Vaskar Nandy. Rather it can be considered to be the continuation and enrichment of the same line. Caste (jati-varna)-ethnicity-gender-religion-language-region-all these are intertwined with class in the Indian context. Whether or not feudalism continues as a major mode of production, caste-(jati-varna), ethnicity-identity-gender-religion-language and other forms would continue to be appropriated even by imperialism and capitalism of the most modern times. Hence the necessity, indispensability and urgency in understanding caste as a form of class and to fight for its annihilation to join the struggle of democratisation. The present situation has added one more dimension to this urgent task ahead of us as caste is appropriated by Hindutva fascist forces; therefore, to demolish the latter, we are duty bound to join the war of annihilation of caste. Vaskar Nandy would continue to enlighten our path with his illuminating theorisation Be it said that this document of Vaskar Nandy is one of the greatest fundamental and radical documents ever produced by the communist movement of India.

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May 22, 2020

Devabrata Sharma

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