Political Assessment of Ambedkar
Disclosure: Extracted from the June 2022 issue of People’s March
The Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist) enriched its document on ‘Caste Question in India – Our Perspective’. There were important changes in understanding BR Ambedkar, a champion of the Dalit people and part of writing the Indian Constitution. We give here the regarding chapter.
Ambedkar took up struggles not only for the equality of Dalit people who are in the most oppressed position in the caste hierarchy but also for the workers and women. In his view equality, independence and sovereignty exist together in the Indian society. Coming to imperialism his understanding is that without fighting against the friends of imperialism such as landlords, mill owners and money-lenders in the country, we cannot take up any kind of efficient war against imperialism. He adopted a constant neutral attitude towards the colonial rule only with a strategic view. In his view, the Dalits without any instruments cannot fight the entire powerful enemies at a time. He basically opined the Congress as the representative of the landlords and urban capitalists. He challenged the view that they were doing an anti-imperialist war. He criticized the caste system as Hindu imperialism and stated it was more evil when compared to British imperialism.
In the real sense Ambedkar is the representative of the oppressed classes. He addressed the entire untouchables, oppressed castes, suppressed people and women as a single class. He called the entire suppressed people as ‘depressed classes’. In Marathi he addressed them ‘Dalit’. This concept of ‘depressed class’ possesses the concept that the caste system can be destroyed only by organizing it with class outlook. However, his opinion about uniting this people’s community class wise is on contrary to the concept of Marx on class. He repeatedly said that Brahmanism and capitalism are the two enemies of the Indian oppressed masses. This depressed class became part of the people’s mobilization and people’s movements in lakhs in his leadership. These were firstly for social and civic rights and for self-respect and later also on issues of democratic rights of Dalits, peasants, workers and women. He led many anti-caste struggles which were an important part of the anti-feudal struggle. He and the movement he led thus formed an important part of the democratic forces and the movement of that period.
Ambedkar mainly dedicated his life for achieving the rights and welfare of the Dalits. However he approached Parliamentary democracy to achieve his aim. This attitude in practice diverted them from the path of militant struggle and created illusions on the Parliamentary system. On the other hand his services helped the British imperialists after 1941 and the comprador bureaucratic bourgeoisie and the feudal classes after 1947. On the whole, Ambedkar chose annihilation of caste as the goal for his life and sincerely attempted with his entire strength to utilize each and every opportunity he obtained in the interests of the Dalit and suppressed people. He always had a quest for struggle and ways of struggle. He was always prepared for change. He is a historic friendly force in the broad Indian New Democratic Revolution. In this view we have to take the positive aspects in him for social transformation. We have to shed those that stand in the way of the path of revolution. The movement Ambedkar led and his literature definitely inspire the struggle for annihilation of caste and for the construction of democratic society. We must study them with a critical outlook. At the same time we must take up struggle on those who use Ambedkar for their vested interest and on those who draw wrong inferences of his ideas and divert the people.
Ambedkar’s theory of annihilation of caste is a prominent part in the protracted process of construction of democratic society. But it is not the ultimate one. This theory alone will not be enough. This process began before Ambedkar and is still continuing. We have to take it until the end. For this purpose we must especially take up political propaganda that the only correct path for the liberation of Dalits is the united militant struggle of the oppressed classes, Dalit and other oppressed castes and other oppressed sections in the leadership of the proletariat and that it is the New Democratic Revolution and organize all of them as a great force.
A number of organisations and associations are working for solving the problems of Dalits for a long time. Political parties are formed and are working on the basis of ruling class, pettybourgeois, caste and sub-caste in the name of Dalits. These organisations, associations and Parties interpret Ambedkarism as per their will and claim it to be their theory. Among these, we have to expose before the people the ruling class character/ pro-ruling class political opportunism of those ruling class Dalit parties, the Dalit organisations and associations that oppose our Party and benefit in the name of Ambedkar; we have to isolate the leadership from the people. We will have to make efforts with the objective of sustaining other Ambedkarite, Dalit organisations and associations in a broad democratic movement, to work with them with a friendly attitude. Party must extend support to their struggles. We have to unite and struggle together with them. At the same time, we must build independent strong movements and organisations on a broad basis on the problems of the Dalits with the aim of liberation of the Dalit people.
Ambedkar theoretically does not oppose Marxism. He propagated Marxism to the possible extent. He did his work basing on the standards of Marxism. He used to say that if ever there was a philosophy close to him, it was Marxism. However, when he was studying in the ‘London School of Economics’, he was influenced with Deve Fabianism. He called these theoretical ideas as pragmatism or instrumentalism.
Instrumentalists realise scientific ideology.
Due to the pragmatist outlook that Ambedkar chose and practiced regarding ‘Annihilation of Caste’, he did not give importance to its social and economic base. On the question, he presented the incorrect understanding that caste arose characteristically from the devotion to the religious theories, that destroying the religious sentiments that act as the base for caste discrimination is the path to annihilate caste discrimination and that caste took birth not from ancient relations of production of the Indian society but from Hindu religion. He therefore thought that caste could be rooted out by reforming the Hindu religion rather than by changing the social system. He thus proposed laws to abolish the Vedas and to set up one common authoritative Hindu religious text acceptable to all the Hindus, for the appointment of priests through examinations open to any caste, etc. He also saw inter-caste marriages as the solution to annihilate caste. He thus felt that changes in the thoughts and ideas of men alone would bring about the end of the caste system. He did not understand therefore that though intercaste marriages were to be encouraged constantly, without breaking the social and economic basis of caste they would only help in the abolition of the caste system partially. His proposal of reform of Hindu religion and later his conversion did not answer the question as to why caste had persisted in Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and even Buddhism in various forms in India. Thus, naturally his final conversion to Buddhism could not show a path of liberation from the caste system.
Moreover it led him to rely considerably on the British administration in the fight against the casteists. He looked upon the British as believers in western Christian philosophy that was opposed to Hindu caste ideology. Thus, he failed in practice to understand that the British imperialists depended on the feudal caste fundamentalist forces for their exploitative and repressive rule in the country.
Lastly, due to Ambedkar’s bourgeois liberal thinking he had a wrong understanding of the nature of the state. Believing in the bourgeois concept of a neutral state and not realising its class nature as an instrument of repression, he felt that the state’s character could be changed through changes in laws and constitutional reforms. Though he was inspired by the bourgeois democratic principles of ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’, he could not identify the basic bourgeois class dictatorship character of bourgeois democracy. He especially could not recognise the reactionary character of imperialism and its agent, the Comprador Bureaucratic Bourgeoisie and the Indian state. He therefore mainly relied on laws, Parliament, courts and the Constitution to bring about social change.
The Brahmanical Hindu fascist BJP at the center and all the ruling parties and revisionist parties relentlessly propagate that Ambedkar is the founder of the Indian Constitution, that he is the creator of Parliamentary democracy and ideologically opposed to violence and revolution, keeping in view his enormous recognition among the people of the Dalit and other oppressed castes, for their vested interests. All these parties compete to propagate that Ambedkar said that Dalits must patiently make efforts to better their lives through structural changes and democratic methods. Thus, all the exploitative class parties use the name of Ambedkar and limit the Dalits to bourgeois and petty-bourgeois reforms and rigorously try to see that they do not take up militant class struggles and do not organize in the New Democratic Revolution. In an unprecedented manner since 1947, Modi government is much more fascising the state and the Brahmanic Hindu communal caste chauvinist forces, according to the agenda of the Brahmanic Hindutwa fascist Sangh Parivar. While on the one hand Modi government and various state governments have intensified multipronged offensive on the revolutionary movement, on the other hand the Sangh Parivar forces are indulging in theoretical, political, cultural and physical attacks on the Dalit, Adivasi, Minority, Secular, Democratic and Revolutionary forces. They are unleashing utmost cruel repression on the revolutionary forces and other militant democratic forces that fight against these fascist governments without compromise. These fascists are trying to unlimitedly exploit and oppress the people of the country by surrendering other forces of the movement through carrot and stick policy and push the people of the country into slavery. It is in this background that the BJP government in the leadership of Modi had upheld Ambedkar in the celebrations of his 125th birth anniversary in a grand way. We must expose the wickedness behind this symbolisation of Ambedkar that the ruling class adopted in its interests. We must preserve and strengthen the place of
Ambedkar as an effective force in the broad democratic struggle, bring him out of the fort of the ruling classes and place him as the genuine symbol of those for whom he dedicated his life.