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CPI (Muddled)

Our communist leaders seem to have become followers of Manu and Mandal rather than Marx, writes Samrat.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 05:04 IST

I had always thought CPI stood for Communist Party of India, and CPI(M) for Communist Party of India (Marxist). However, it now seems that I was mistaken: CPI is the Casteist Party of India and CPI(M) is Casteist Party of India (Mandal).

Communism looks at society in terms of class. It recognises only two basic classes, the bourgeois and the proletariat. Accepting a religiously ordained system of social stratification like caste is against the most fundamental principles of communism. Yet that is what both these parties have done, apparently after much thought. In deciding to support the Mandalisation of society, they have betrayed both their hunger for power and the ideals they pretend to espouse.

Perhaps they were concerned about the fact that their leadership since Independence has been mianly high-caste. In that case, they should have done something about inner party democracy. They should also have fought to demolish the caste system itself. Instead, they accepted it as a historical reality. By accepting the paradigm of caste, they became followers of Manu and Mandal rather than Marx.

The caste system is an anachronism that needs to be removed from Indian society. This can only be done if the terms in which people identify themselves and one another are changed. Therefore, to begin with, all surnames that indicate a person’s caste should be dropped. The so-called communists, instead of supporting certain castes at the expense of others, would do well to start by dropping the caste identifiers from their own names.

The terms of the debate about equality of opportunity need to be changed. No sensible person would argue against equality of opportunity. However, it is difficult for any sensible person to accept that only people from certain castes are backward, especially considering the absence of empirical data on this. Instead of framing the argument for equality on caste terms, a more modern way to do it would be to devise and apply deprivation indices to the population. If the communists are indeed concerned about the backward classes, they ought to have no problems with all backward people being identified as such, regardless of caste.

If, after identifying the backward in a scientific manner, it is found that a certain percentage of the population, say 27 per cent, need a helping hand from the government and society, they should be given all help. This will probably entail good school education and a revamp of the entire school system in India. It is a mammoth task, but it needs doing.

This prescription is, of course, no panacea. But it has what I consider a significant merit: It is not derived from any ‘ism’. When a person is seriously ill, he or she only wants to get cured. He does not care whether the doctor curing him is Hindu or Muslim, allopath or homeopath. He is likely to try everything. His interest is in whatever works for him. Similarly, a backward person will be interested in whatever helps him overcome his situation. The solution may come from socialism, communism, capitalism or religion — to him the theory matters far less than the cure.

Yet the people who have to provide the cures can’t think outside their boxes. They are communists, or capitalists, or fundamentalists. They often believe that their cure is the best cure — or even the only cure. They are angry when it does not work, or others disagree. It would benefit humankind if all the believers of all the ‘isms’ learnt to apply their minds to solving problems, instead of trying to apply their pet theories to every problem.