Anand Teltumbde has announced his judgement about us (http://sanhati.com/articles/6366/). He has called us “self-obsessed Marxists” with “frozen mind”. What can we say? As he himself admits, his stay was of a few hours and in that short time span he was able to evaluate us conclusively and then declare his judgement. However, during that same short stay, we too, were able to make some impressions about Mr. Teltumbde. We shall start with some examples and then we shall proceed to a parawise reply of Mr. Teltumbde’s article.
Of Self-obsession and Similar Diseases…
1. In his first statement during the Chandigarh seminar, Mr. Teltumbde spoke for almost 1 hour. In that long speech, he mentioned his own name at least 3 or 4 times. He began with claiming, “Ambedkarites say that Anand Teltumbde is a Marxist and Marxists say that Anand Teltumbde is an Ambedkarite”! At one point, he says, “I don’t like people who immediately agree with me”; at another, “I saw a problem of mathematics pertaining to surplus solved by Marx using algebra, but I found that it was a problem of differential equation and then I thought why Marx has solved it using algebra…then I solved it using differential equation and sent it to an international journal and that was my first article (giggles) published in an international journal…many years later when I was in IIT I found that a Japanese scientist used my method in his research.” Again, “I became a Marxist at the age of 7 and I don’t think anyone present here became a Marxist at that age.” I can give several such examples. However, above examples suffice to show what is the real meaning of self-obsession. I think, Mr. Teltumbde is perfectly honest when he says that he curses himself for having gone to Chandigarh. However, the reasons that he is giving for this ostensible self-bashing, do not seem convincing to us. We have a different explanation for this self-bashing, to which we will come later. For this moment, we would like to argue that Mr. Teltumbde should tell what does he mean by “self-obsession”. If he is going by the dictionary meaning, then definitely he needs to ponder over his own attitude.
He claims that we were not open to free and frank discussions and were not encouraging participation from outsiders to enrich our approach paper. However, he does not give any reason for this particular charge. For example, had we not been open to free and frank discussions on our approach paper, we would not have brought Mr. Teltumbde from Jalandhar (he had already said that if we want him to participate in the seminar even for a few hours, we will have to bring him from Jalandhar to Chandigarh and then drive him back to Jalandhar, the same day, in the evening) and then driven him back to Jalandhar. In our statement too, we said that we are completely open to listen to him and learn from him. We had (and still have) very high respect for him. In his stay of a few hours, he spoke for at least one and a half hour and we listened without any interruption and in the end too we offered him to stay and speak more. Had we not been open to debate and discussion on everything, we would not have gone to that extent to ensure his participation in our seminar. However, we must our high expectations about him crumbled like a cookie during his first statement; we got to hear many things to which we could not find ourselves in agreement, and so we also presented our criticism. However, I guess, Mr. Teltumbde is not used to criticism and he had problems taking this criticism. He did not say a word of disagreement in his second statement and everything that he said was to express his agreement with what had been argued by myself and Sukhvinder and also with what was written in our approach paper. I completely disagree with this charge of Mr. Teltumbde that we were obsessed with being proven correct. After his second statement also, he did not utter a single word of reservation about the way in which the seminar was being conducted. In fact, we (Mr. Teltumbde and myself) in person exchanged our phone numbers and he agreed to come to Delhi for a longer discussion. However, Mr. Teltumbde is completely silent about this in his article. We are surprised.
Parawise reply to Mr. Teltumbde’s article
We have already responded to the first paragraph above. So I will start with the second paragraph of his article.
2. Anand Teltumbde charges us of mischief in throwing the “raw records of the seminar open for public discussion”. He believes that public is not at the same stage of understanding as that of the delegates of the seminar (so they cannot participate in the discussion!). This is a ridiculous line of argument. All over the world, the statements of participants in seminars organized by revolutionary groups or even academic institutions are recorded and put online. There is nothing “raw” about it. Had we edited the videos of seminar before putting them online, we would have faced the charge of fabrication of statements. Moreover, why Mr. Teltumbde is afraid of the “common” public? I do not think that common public is not in a position to listen to and understand what Mr. Teltumbde and other speakers said during the debate. We would urge Mr. Teltumbde to see the video again and tell us, what the ignorant “common” public would not understand. And how does this show that we do not understand the reality of caste? I mean, how does providing access to seminar debates to public is linked with our inability to understand caste? That is why, we said in the beginning that this is a ridiculous line of argument that does not lead us anywhere. We believe that not only providing common and general access to seminar debates by us, but the very participation of Mr Teltumbde in the seminar was traumatic for him, and that too, not for the reasons that he is mentioning, because he cannot support even a single charge against us with facts and details. So we would urge him to rethink his line of argument.
3. In the third para, first Mr. Teltumbde again puts the responsibility of “leaking” of his statement to the media on us and asks “can he (Abhinav) be absolved of this responsibility?” We would urge Mr. Teltumbde to learn to take the responsibility for whatever he says. He himself admits that he did say and in fact, he actually believes that all of Ambedkar’s experiments ended in a failure. Then what is the problem if a Hindi newspaper quotes it? And how does we become responsible for it? In all seminars, media is invited. It was not a closed door discussion of a Party and Mr. Teltumbde knew it. Once he had said what he said, he should not shy away from taking the responsibility rather than passing it on to somebody else. Secondly, Mr. Teltumbde puts forwards a plea to understand the context in which he “stood and spoke” there so that one can understand what he did in his second statement. However, we would urge him to make us understand that context. In his long speech, there was nothing to be deciphered or deconstructed. He said in the beginning of his speech that he found difficulty in reading the approach paper as it was in Hindi, but he managed to read the entire paper. He said that the paper was written with a brahmanical mindset and it smacks of casteism. Now he is saying that there was “only a thin line that differentiated it from casteist and brahmanist approaches”. Now, tell us Mr. Teltumbde, isn’t that a volte-face? Moreover, in his first statement, Mr. Teltumbde said that we are dogmatist Marxist. But in his second statement he said, “you said that Marxism is not a dogma, I also say that, so be it.” Isn’t that a volte-face, Mr. Teltumbde? Mr. Teltumbde said that we are trashing Ambedkar and Phule. We responded that we are not trashing them and we already acknowledged their contribution in the approach paper as well as our statements. However, that does not and should not stop us from presenting a critique of the philosophy, politics and economics of Ambedkar. There is no place of apologetics in the arena of criticism. We must call a spade a spade. To this, Mr. Teltumbde agreed and said that he too does not agree with Ambedkar’s politics and philosophy. However, in his first statement he claimed that many people do not know that Ambedkar followed the thinking of John Dewey, who was a progressive pragmatism; he argued further that Deweyan method is very akin to scientific method which tests every hypothesis (or set of postulates) on the basis of experimentation and then constructs a more advanced hypothesis (or set of postulates). He says that though he does not believe entirely in Deweyan method but it is very much akin to natural science. Then Mr. Teltumbde said that he comes from natural science background not social sciences where theories can be constructed. His statement is a de facto justification, or at least admiration for the pragmatism and instrumentalism of John Dewey. I criticized this approach of Mr. Teltumbde and argued that the Deweyan method claims to be scientific, but it is not. Because even science needs an a priori approach and world view. Then we presented a detailed critique of Deweyan method of Ambedkar. Mr. Teltumbde was nowhere critical of Deweyan method. Anyone who listens Mr. Teltumbde can understand that he is in fact admiring the Deweyan skepticism for all theory and its fetish for methodology, which is always “self-corrective”. In his second statement, Mr. Teltumbde withdrew his admiration of Deweyan pragmatism and agreed that he was one of the major pillars of American liberalism. Now, Mr. Teltumbde is saying that he only concentrated on one paragraph of the approach paper which allegedly distorted his views. Now, isn’t that a volte-face, Mr. Teltumbde?
4., 5., 6., and 7. In these four paragraphs, Mr. Teltumbde embarks upon the task of exposing our ignorance! Let us see how. He quotes our paper to show that we have put the charge of amalgamating Marxism with Ambedkarism on him, which in fact is baseless, because he has never used the word “samanvaya” (amalgamation). Mr. Teltumbde is not being fair here because since he has seen the video again (as is apparant from this article of Mr. Teltumbde), we had already responded to this argument of Mr. Teltumbde in the seminar itself. I said in my first statement that it does not really matter what you call yourself. The mechanism of naming things is always external to the things that we are talking about. It will always be the people in general who will give you names, not you yourself. I argued in my first statement that when you say that Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ is to caste India what Communist Manifesto was for the working class, then you are giving a value judgement. Mr. Teltumbde said that he was using the term ‘Manifesto’ here as a generic term and he did not mean to equate ‘Annihilation of Caste’ with ‘Communist Manifesto’. However, I responded in my statement that even if you were using the term ‘Manifesto’ in a generic way, this metaphor was wrong and obviously had ulterior motives. Because if you were using it as a generic term, you could have given the example of any other manifesto like ‘Rights of Man’, or ‘Declaration of Rights of Women’, etc. But you chose ‘Communist Manifesto’! I argued that this whole metaphorization is value-loaded and whoever reads this statement of Mr. Teltumbde in the entire context knows that Mr. Teltumbde is not using the term ‘Manifesto’ in a generic way, rather, he is equating the importance of ‘Annihilation of Caste’ and ‘Communist Manifesto’, to which we, I think rightly, objected. Mr. Teltumbde’s defence (that he used ‘Manifesto’ as a generic term) was a really lame excuse. That is why Mr. Teltumbde did not utter a single word about our criticism of this analogy in his second statement.
Besides, Mr. Teltumbde accuses us of equating the division of castes to other divisions along the order of places in the production system (such as division between mental and manual labour, skilled and unskilled, etc and British and Irish workers, black and white workers). However, if you read the lines in the approach paper, we simply argued that everywhere the division of labour engenders some kind of division of labourers and Ambedkar was wrong in claiming that caste is not a division of labour but a division of labourers. Recent historiaography and evidences has now demonstrated beyond doubt that varna/caste system (a term preferred by Suvira Jaiswal, rather than simply using varna system or caste system) has its origins in the labour division which got ritualistically ossified and became a rigid division of labourers. In other places, the division of labour did engender a division of labourers but since elsewhere this division of labour did not get ritualistically ossified, it did not engender a rigid division of labourers based on birth. So the division of labourers in the case of Black/white, British/Irish is not rigid like the caste system. We have clarified this point while dealing with historiography of caste in the Approach Paper, as well as in the separate paper on the Historiography of Caste presented during the Seminar by me. But, Mr. Teltumbde has quoted us out of context to prove his point, a charge that, to our surprise, he puts on us! Mr. Teltumbde again accuses us of trashing all non-Marxist currents in the caste movements. However, we have clarified in the paper as well as in the statements that we had put forward in the seminar that it is not the question of trashing or completely adopting something. The real question is what can be learnt from Ambedkar and other currents in the caste movement and what should be criticized. Mr. Teltumbde, like always, has circumvented this real question. We have argued in our paper that the contribution of Ambedkar in establishing the Dalit identity and the sense of dignity should be acknowledged. However, we cannot adopt anything from his program of dalit emancipation, neither political program nor social or economic programs. And Mr. Teltumbde agrees on this point. So we end up wondering, what does he really object to! Because we have always particularized what we are criticizing, in all the papers that we presented in the seminar. Instead of putting a counter-critique on each and every point, Mr. Teltumbde has taken the convenient way of putting a vague charge on us, that is, we are in a rejectionist mode as regards the other currents in the caste movements. We say again and again that we are not rejecting, we are trying to establish a critical relation with everything, that is, we are trying to ascertain what can we learn from Ambedkar and what must be criticized in Ambedkar. Instead of arguing particularly about things, Mr. Teltumbde conducts a summary trial and announces his judgement on us. Now, is that an attitude of open and free debate and discussion, Mr. Teltumbde?
8. In the eighth para, Mr. Teltumbde raises the question of comparison of the ‘Communist Manifesto’ and ‘Annihilation of Castes’ about which we have already explained our position. However, he says an interesting thing to which we would like to draw your attention. He says that he is opposed to “hierarchize ideologies” which according to him is a “brahmanical tendency”. So what do we have here? According to Mr. Teltumbde ideologies or philosophies should not be hierarchized; in other words, they should be put at par! First of all, we were not hierarchizing theories. He can not produce a single sentence from the approach paper or the statements that we had presented which hierarchizes philosophies. What we presented was a critique of Ambedkar’s politics and philosophy from a Marxist standpoint. Mr. Teltumbde is at his Deweyan pragmatist best here, as he can imagine only two positions: one, of hierarchizing philosophies and two, of putting them at par, or not hierarchizing them. So where does Mr. Teltumbde stand? What is the ideological and political quality of Mr. Teltumbde’s stand? Marxist? or Ambedkarite? or something else? That is what we criticized Mr. Teltumbde for in the Seminar: this fetish for method, the method of hard science, to borrow from Dewey! And then test all theories and philosophies from the sans-theory sans-philosophy scientific method! Mr. Teltumbde forgets the basic teaching of science: you can’t escape theory; even those who claim to be purged of all theories are, in fact, putting forward a theory. In natural (hard) science too, one needs to take an a priori theoretical position, namely, the dialectical approach, otherwise they are obliged to fall in the pit of determinism or agnosticism, because at any given point, science cannot give answers for all questions. That was the tragedy of debate between the Copenhagen School (Hiesenberg and Bohr) and Einstein; a fetish for science always leads to this ‘dysjunctive synthesis’ of determinism and agnosticism. Mr. Teltumbde has actually justified our criticism of his hidden Deweyanism in his new article. So, supposedly, Mr. Teltumbde is not concerned about the “correctness or otherwise of these manifestos”. However, this supposition itself hides in itself the justification of a trans-theoretical and trans-historical super-method, as one can see. We on our part can say that everybody has a position, irrespective of his/her will and they criticize or admire anything from that position only. We criticized the theory and politics of Ambedkar from a Marxist perspective, because we believe that claiming to have a position over and above theory, in congruence with the scientifc super-method is a hollow claim. Mr. Teltumbde should clearly put forward his ideological position, because any ambiguity in this matter leads to traumatic results, as has been the case till now.
9. In the ninth para, Mr. Teltumbde, while criticizing his Ambedkarite critics, has tried to make the Deweyan thought more tolerable to Marxism and Science. Deweyan thought never aims to enrich any theory as Mr. Teltumbde thinks. It is consciously anti-theory. Dewey was skeptical of all theories all his life. For him, what matters is the pure and pristine method of the “hard sciences”; the so-called social sciences create theories, rather construct them out of nothing and so Dewey has a disdain for all social sciences. Now, this is a completely different matter altogether that Dewey himself was following a theory, the theory of pragmatism and instrumentalism which biologizes everything. For instance, for Dewey every organism lives in a context and it has to adapt and readapt constantly to survive. For Dewey, in nature the process of development does not have ruptures or breaks; it is a smooth progression in which the organism adapts and re-adapts itself according to the context. So, for Dewey, in society too, the pattern of development should not include ruptures (revolutions/revolts); the human beings should make a good use of intelligence. The state is the best mechanism to represent this good use of intelligence and reason. Violence is waste. We cannot go here in a detailed critique of Dewey. However, it seems that either Mr. Teltumbde needs to have a serious relook on the works of Dewey, or he is trying to misappropriate Dewey to make him tolerable! We questioned Mr. Teltumbde’s argument that scientists follow the same method in the laboratories. This is the method of the instrumentalists in Quantum theory who raise the slogan of “shut up and calculate”; in fact, that is precisely the slogan of cybernetics also, with which Mr. Teltumbde seems to be fascinated. In these schools, we are told to follow a trans-theoretical, pure and pristine scientific method to test and calculate without any “theoretical prejudice”, and this is precisely what Mr. Teltumbde does again and again in his latest article: and eternal disdain for theory and an incorrigible fetish for method. However, we know now that this itself is a prejudice and there is another school within the so-called “hard” sciences to which people like Sakata, Gould, Yukawa, etc. belong, which believes in having an a priori dialectical position, even before entering the laboratory. So, Mr. Teltumbde’s claim that neither is he in support of anything, nor does he oppose anything, is an unscientific claim. Irrespective of your wish and will, you always do that as soon as you make a political statement or value judgement. Such theoretical indifference or non-partisan attitude is a myth.
Moreover, we never said that Mr. Teltumbde was trashing Marx or talking about his failure. It was in fact said by the self-proclaimed well-wishers of Mr. Teltumbde, that is, the five comrades of Republican Panthers who attended the seminar, who did not utter a word during the seminar, but immediately issued a statement against us and in supposed support of Mr. Teltumbde! Besides, we are curious regarding why Mr. Teltumbde is always in the teacher-preacher mode? He claims that he was trying to sensitize (!?) people present in the seminar who were intoxicated by this or that ‘-ism’! Again, Mr. Teltumbde is at his Deweyan best. He is avert to call himself an Ambedkarite or a Marxist, or any ‘-ist’ for that matter. He is in a trans-theoretical methodological position or pulpit, from where he is supposed to sensitize us, and we are supposed to hear his sermons! Is that not a self-obsessed attitude on part of Mr. Teltumbde? We also know and do not need Mr. Teltumbde to make us realize that Revolutions happen in reality; neither in the paper nor in our statements, did we show any dogmatic or closed-ended approach to Marxism. Even, Mr. Teltumbde corrected himself in his second statement and said that he did not call us dogmatist (though he really did!) and he was referring only to the paragraphs of the approach paper that mentioned his name. But if you listen to the first statement of Mr. Teltumbde, you will find that he had not been referring to those paragraphs only; he was commenting on the paper in general, and that too, without reading it properly. What should we call this, if not a U-turn, a volte-face?
10. In the tenth para, Mr. Teltumbde argues that the distrust of Ambedkar towards Marx stemmed from Marx’s claim to a ‘grand theory’. (Such a claim was ascribed to Marxism by the postmodernists. Marx himself never claimed that he is creator of a ‘grand theory’. We will come back to this point later.) However, in the Seminar, he himself admitted that Ambedkar had not read Marxism properly and his list of books that he studied shows that he had a very supreficial understanding of Marxism and he had never read Marxist classics. Clearly, Ambedkar’s skepticism to Marxism had nothing to do with his dislike for ‘grand theories’ (Marx never made such a claim; he only claimed, together with Engels, to be the creator of the dialectial and historical materialist science of history and society). Ambedkar’s skepticism stemmed from two sources: one, his own class position and two, his academic training in the US where he became a Deweyan instrumentalist and pragmatist and in London School of Economics, where he was influenced by the Austrian school of economics, of Carl Menger. These intellectual sources are bitterly critical of Marxism. This in itself was enough for Ambedkar to become diametrically opposed to Marxism. Whenever, he strove to form an alliance with Communists, his prime mover was never the politics of the working class, but the same good old pragmatism of Dewey. Secondly, the account of Ambedkar’s political history that Mr. Teltumbde himself gives in the tenth para, bears a testimony to the throughout compromising, non-radical, non-massline and surrenderist approach of Ambedkar. We do not need to deconstruct the text of Mr. Teltumbde’s article here to show this, because it is self-evident. Mr. Teltumbde’s narrative itself shows that the Congress was always willing to co-opt Ambedkar in its political scheme. Does not this fact itself tell a lot about the politics of Ambedkar? Mr. Teltumbde seems to be in the awe of Ambedkar’s plan for so-called ‘state-socialism’ which has nothing to do with socialism! Socialism does not mean state ownership of means of production. The defining characteristic of Socialism is the class character of the state itself. As Engels had already shown in the 19th century, State capitalism (one can read socialism as well) is nothing, but capitalism pushed to extreme. Ambedkar’s economic program was a paraphrasing of Deweyan economic program, for which state is the most rational actor and therefore it should have the monopoly over economic activities and planning. We expect Mr. Teltumbde at least to be aware of this much. However, he is much too eager to perform a Marxist appropriation of Ambedkar, though in a clandestine fashion, while claiming that there is no meeting point between the ideas of Ambedkar and Marxism.
11. The eleventh para is probably is most interesting para in Mr. Teltumbde’s article. It claims that Mr. Teltumbde follows Marxist methodology (note: not Marxist theory/ideology/philosophy! The same old Deweyan skepticism for theory and fetish for method), but he would not call himself a Marxist because a lot of Marxists are dogmatic! However, Mr. Teltumbde does not mention that I criticized this position in my response in the Seminar, to which he did not say a word in his latest article. One calls himself a Marxist, or a liberal, or a post-structuralist, not because what the alleged followers of these ideologies do! Such a logic will lead us to non-sensical conclusions. One calls himself a Marxist because he/she believes in the approach and method of what he/she believes to be the Marxist approach and method. If majority of people have become indifferent to pain, tragedy, etc and have become inhuman, would you stop calling yourself a human being? No! Then why do not you call yourself a Marxist, if you believe in Marxism? However, we know the answer to this question already! Again, identifying with a theory and ideology always scares a Deweyan away! Secondly, never in the paper did we say that Marxism is a dogma and it cannot be developed. On the contrary, the major part of our paper is not a critique of Ambedkar and Ambedkarites, but of the Communist movement of India, which failed to understand the problem of caste and apply Marxism creatively in the Indian conditions. But, apparently Mr. Teltumbde had launched an attack on our paper without reading it properly.
Moreover, the iconoclasm, radicalism, etc of Ambedkar might be the personal views of Mr. Teltumbde and we might or might not differ in this regard. But our concern in the paper as well as in the entire seminar was not to analyze how deeply and passionately Ambedkar felt about the problem of caste, but what program does Ambedkar have for the solution of the problem and it is in this context that the criticism of Ambedkar put forward by our approach paper should be seen and understood.
Also, it does not matter at what age did Mr. Teltumbde become a Marxist! It does not affect the merits or lacunae of his arguments today and in any case it does not give any advantage to his logic. Kautsky was a much older Marxist that Lenin was. Does that influence the way in which Kautsky went haywire in his theorizations about Imperialism?
12. In the twelfth para, Mr. Teltumbde shows how everything that Ambedkar did for the emancipation of dalits failed miserably and goes to the extent of exclaiming, “The less said of Ambedkarite politics, the better it is.” However, he does not trace the origin of these mistakes, that is, the incorrigibly bourgeious liberal, pragmatist, instrumentalist, regressive thoughts of Ambedkar. He did not believe in the revolutionary energy of the masses, but believed in the power of heroes and specifically, the state. The reason for Ambedkar’s failure lies in his philosophy and politics and that is what we have subjected to criticism in our paper, not the intent of Ambedkar. Theoretical discourse never takes the issue of intent into consideration because this issue is a highly subjective issue. What is at stake in any political discussion is the scientific and philosophical character of a theory and its historical role. What the carriers of a theory might have felt at different moments does not matter in history, as Mr. Teltumbde himself claimed in his first statement, “individuals don’t matter in revolutions”. The conspicuous absence of a serious political and philosophical criticism of Ambedkar in any of the statements put forward by Mr. Teltumbde is troubling. He stops at mentioning a fact, that is, all of Ambedkar’s experiments ended in a grand failure. But he never asks the question “why?” Why does Mr. Teltumbde forget his celebrated scientific method here? This is a curious emission, as we can see.
13., 14., 15., 16. and 17. In these paragraphs, again, Mr. Teltumbde once again, is in his Deweyan glory. He talks about the failure of almost all great men in history. However, we would like to remind him that the task of the approach paper (and other papers as well) was not to assess the failure of men and their particular experiments. The real question is the assessment of the theory and methodology given by these men. Men fail and succeed. That does not matter much in history. The basic question is whether Marx was able to give a science of history? Whether he was able to give an approach and a method which is scientific? Obviously, Marxism is not an aggregation of the statements of Marx. Marxism is name of the approach (worldview) and the method that Marx gave. Marx might himself have failed to use this dialectical materialist method at a number of instances, for example, his theory of Asiatic mode of production, or his assessment of the British rule in India, etc. However, that does not make any difference as far as Marxist approach and method are concerned. A number of his expectations, judgements and statements were proven wrong by history. That might be called, in a limited sense, the failure of some of speculative judgements of Marx, the individual. But Marx could not be right in all his judgements (wouldn’t it be non-dialectical to expect such infallibility!?). The point here is to understand the difference between different statements of a person and his approach and method. Marx himself believed that dialectical materialism will develop with the changing world, because the basic premise of this science is to study the world in its motion. So, the theory of imperialism was developed by Lenin, not Marx, because finance monopoly capitalism came into proper existence only during the lifetime of Lenin. However, again the basic point to note here is that Lenin followed the same approach and method to study the world, that Marx had followed. So, to talk about the “failures of great men” at such a length and then claim that the failure of Marx was more catastrophic than that of Ambedkar does not make any sense. It is like the history of men, in the 17th century style, that does not tell anything about anything! Mr. Teltumbde argues that Marxism needs to be developed constantly in such a way, as if he is the first person to say so, or, as if we have said something different in the paper. Neither in the paper, nor in our statements did we say that what Marx said was the last word! We would not have felt the need to organize a 5-day Seminar to discuss any question at all, had we believed so. We have written in our approach paper about the mistakes committed in analyzing the problem of caste by Marxists and Communists. Then why Mr. Teltumbde is erecting an imaginary Marxist figure and then raining it with his bows and bayonets?
Besides, Marxism never says that revolutions are inevitable. That would amount to economism. Therefore, to try to prove the “catastrophic failure of Marx” by arguing that Socialist experiments fell down, or, revolutions did not take place, is utterly useless! The economic crises of capitalism themselves never lead automatically to revolution. Every crisis presents dual possibilities: the revolutionary possibility (if the revolutionary vanguard is in a position to lead the masses to revolution) or the reactionary possibility (Fascism). There is always a possibility of counter-revolution and all the great Marxist thinkers were aware of it, including Marx, Engels, and Lenin. So, the fact that sustainable revolutions did not take place in the twentieth century, does not show in anyway, the failure of the alleged ‘grand theory’ of Marx. Marxism gives the tool to analyze the failure of revolutions too, and a number of Marxists have subjected the Soviet and Chinese experiments of socialism to Marxist criticism and through such analyses only, that more advanced socialist experiments can be conducted. This is what Walter Benjamin called ‘redemptive activity’ of theory. Every science develops through such redemptive activity and Marxism, that is, the science of society is no exception. In such a historical movement, the failures of individuals do not matter. What matters is the approach and method given by them. Marxists have not reacted in the vein of Ambedkarites, who have been targeting Mr. Teltumbde without any substantial reason and in this respect, we completely empathize with the agony and anger of Mr. Teltumbde. However, Mr. Teltumbde himself is to blame for this ironic situation. Taking a position above ideology and theory always leads to such a mess.
Moreover, what Mr. Teltumbde claims to have said in regard of the new developments which cannot be explained from classical Marxist position was this: Mr. Teltumbde argued that Marx talked about labour-saving devices, but in contemporary capitalism, we cannot talk about labour-saving devices but labour-displacing devices. Now, everyone who has read the elementary Marxist political economy knows that every labour-saving device becomes a labour-displacing device under capitalism. Mr. Teltumbde is immensely overjoyed in his discovery; but sadly, this discovery has already been made, and even more sadly Mr. Teltumbde is 150 years late! There is not real difference between labour-saving and labour-displacing devices. Mr. Teltumbde was seriously concerned about the scenario where it would become possible to run a factory with one worker! This very fear has led a number of intellectuals to conclude that working class is vanishing from the scene of history. Such a conclusion only shows that the person in question does not understand Marxist political economy. Such a situation will only create even larger army of the unemployed which Marx had called ‘grave diggers of capitalism’. Working class is not vanishing; on the contrary it would be pushed towards revolts. Needless to say, such revolts would not transform into revolution without a revolutionary theory and a vanguard armed with such a theory. Obviously, there are new developments in the modus-operandi of Imperialism after the Second World War which need to be analyzed and understood from Marxist perspective. However, these very ever new developments have been the prime mover in the development of Marxism as the science of history and society; just like the so-called “hard sciences” of Mr. Teltumbde! What is so stupefying about this? In a nutshell, Mr. Teltumbde needs to differentiate between assessment of men and assessment of approaches and methods. From that standpoint, it can be asked whether Marxism or Ambedkar provide the correct approach and method to understand everything that exists around us. Mr. Teltumbde believes that Ambedkar had no theory and he was a pragmatist who kept experimenting with newer things. However, this itself was his theory, which Mr. Teltumbde admits, he liked! And this very theory was subjected to criticism during the Seminar. What is wrong in that? Does that amount to trashing or rejecting Ambedkar? We don’t think so.
In the seventeenth para, Mr. Teltumbde traces the ideological origins of Ambedkar. However, again, he is trying to misappropriate Ambedkar. Ambedkar’s dislike for Marxism did not only stem from his experience of Indian Communists, but his class position and his academic training. Secondly, he never used Marxism as a benchmark, as Mr. Teltumbde wants us to believe; he had called Marxism “pigs’ philosophy” which shows his clear attitude. We have criticized this attitude of Ambedkar without using the derogatory terminology used by Ambedkar. We do not find anything wrong in it.
18. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde is again in his teacher-preacher mode. He rightly points out that Ambedkar has a huge contribution in putting the question of caste on the national agenda. He is also right about the contribution of communists in this, who empirically fought militantly against caste oppression. Indian communists as well as Ambedkar failed to devise a program for the annihilation of caste. In the beginning of his article, Mr. Teltumbde says that hierarchizing is a brahmanical attitude. However, he adopts this brahmanical attitude according to his convenience. Here, he says that the contribution of Ambedkar was much greater that Communists in democratization! He does not feel it necessary to back his statements with logic and reason. So he performs another intellectual somersault and adds that he says so rhetorically because he wants communists to think about the opportunities that they have lost! Again, Mr. Teltumbde is quite obsessed with his teaching capabilities. Nobody denies the fact that there is a need to analyze the mistakes of Communist movement on the question of caste and that is what we have done in our paper, apart from a brief critique of Ambedkar. But this hierarchizing of Mr. Teltumbde is surprising and we do not agree to the hierarchy of contributions proposed by Mr. Teltumbde. At least, he should stay consistent in his approach and should not shift positions so rapidly, following Ambedkar.
19. and 20. In the nineteenth para again, Mr. Teltumbde argues in a way as if we cling to the metaphor of ‘base and superstructure’ mechanically and goes on to claim that all dalit Marxists (we’re not sure what does that mean!) have abandoned it and there has been a debate in international Marxism about this metaphor. We believe, and we have made it clear in the paper, that the metaphor of base and superstructure is an analytical tool to study any social formation and it cannot be used in a mechanical and instrumentalist fashion, as Indian communists have often done, specially while studying caste. We have particularly criticized certain communists of Indian communist movement who believed that caste belongs to superstructure. On the contrary, we have argued in the paper that caste belongs to the base as well as the superstructure. However, we can not go in detail about it; those who are interested can download the approach paper from the website of Arvind Memorial Trust and read our position. But here again, Mr. Teltumbde is erecting an imaginery Marxist figure for the purpose of bashing.
Moreover, the criticism that Indian communists failed to understand the question of caste and class was put forward by Mr. Teltumbde. We ourselves have criticized the Indian communist movement for this failure. But Mr. Teltumbde presented the matter in a way, as if Indian communists did not take up the question of caste and called it their biggest sin. We objected to this because it is factually wrong. Sukhvinder responded to this criticism of Mr. Teltumbde and criticized him for impeaching communists for what they are not guilty of. He argues in his latest article, “Surprisingly, there is no admission ever from the Marxists (regarding this mistake)”. Again, Mr. Teltumbde is distorting the facts. Our paper itself bears testimony to a bitterly critical approach towards the mistakes of the communists in understading the question of caste. In fact, a larger share of the paper is dedicated to the criticism of communist movement, rather that Ambedkar and Phule. As far as, the question of base and superstructure is concerned, one can refer to the approach paper. Our understanding is completely different from what Mr. Teltumbde is portraying it to be.
21. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde continues in the tone of teaching-preaching. He claims that it was he, who has been saying all along that castes basically seek hierarchy and cannot survive in non-hierarchical waters; under external pressure they contract together, but without external pressure they start splitting. He again claims that all caste movements have failed to note this core characteristics of caste. This again is a hollow claim. Historians like Suvira Jaiswal and R.S. Sharma have already drawn our attention to precisely these characteristics. However, like always Mr. Teltumbde is stupefied at his own “inventions” and “discoveries” and as always these inventions and discoveries have already been made and Mr. Teltumbde is sadly late! Mr. Teltumbde argues that the dalits and lower castes have to understand that its not caste identity but class identity which has the emancipatory potential and he also advises the communists to show to the dalits that they have changed. We believe that the communists can show this only through struggles and a proper understanding of the question of caste. We also believe that (and we have said this in the paper) without the participation of dalits there can be no revolution and without a revolution there can be no dalit emancipation. However, Mr. Teltumbde does not even mention that. Secondly, he again shows his skepticism for theory and ideology when he argues that there should be a convergence between the dalit and communist movements, not ‘-isms’ and such a convergence will quickly fructify into Indian Revolution. Revolution is first of all a matter of science; without a proper scientific and revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement, to borrow from Lenin. Mr. Teltumbde invokes the authority of Lenin according to his convenience. Lenin was very particular about the theory which guides the movement. Mr. Teltumbde’s Deweyan deviation is apparent once again.
22. and 23. In these paragraphs, Mr. Teltumbde presents his own alternative concept of reservation, which should be limited to the SCs only, who face exclusion at the hands of the society. The state should deploy other methods, according to him, to do away with the backwardness of the BCs and tribals. The reservation policy should not only include the public sector but the entire social sphere, which includes public as well as private. According to Mr. Teltumbde such a policy would have been free from the malaise of the present policy of reservation that has become the most potent weapon of the ruling class in dividing the people at will. Then, Mr. Teltumbde adds several more conditions to his alternative policy of reservation. He believes that in such a scheme the burden of annihilation of caste would have fallen on the society and the latter would have been obliged to do away with caste discrimination. Though, we would like to know more about his alternative vision of reservation policy, it seems to us that, first, even if the policy of reservation is extended to entire societal sphere, the dalits would not be destigmatized; on the contrary, as far as we can visualize, dalits would be stigmatized even more. But the ways in which stigma is attached to them, would become more subtle, rather than being crude and ‘in-the-face’. second, this would not in anyway, make it the burden of the society to do away with caste. Caste cannot be annihilated without the withering away of class, state, the interpersonal disparities of mental and manual labour, town and country and industry and agriculture. Even after revolution, several cultural revolutions would be required to annihilate caste. However, we are open to know more about the ‘intricate’ model of reservation suggested by Mr. Teltumbde. Anyway, that is not the point here. We would still suggest that had Mr. Teltumbde been this diligent and meticulous in adopting a more sound theoretical position, there would have been less problems. The basic question in our opinion today is that the problem is not with any particular model of reservation policy, but the policy of reservation itself. It might have been a democratic right till a certain time after independence; however, any model of reservation would only create an illusion today. Our demand should be free and equal education for all and employment for all. Only such a demand can push the system to its point of impossibility and in struggle for such a demand the caste boundaries could be weakened.
Mr. Teltumbde’s thinking is too much dependent on the role of the state, and what else can we expect from a true Deweyan! He thinks that if state implements his model of reservation, the society would be obliged to do away with caste. This is like a fool’s paradise. State can never oblige a society to think or act in a particular way. It is the concrete political, social and economic struggles that shape the ways in which the society acts, in which the state is sustained or destroyed, in which a new state is established. State through any possible kind of ‘affirmative action’ cannot oblige the society to think, say or do anything. Mr. Teltumbde did not explain even this “alternative” Deweyan understanding of reservation policy in the semiar, and now he is rebuking us for our closed-ended approach. Is that fair?!
24. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde wants to prove at any cost that our paper does not offer anything new as far as the solution part is concerned. He argues that such propositions can be found in any communist document on caste and that even Ambedkar’s proposals were more radical than that of the approach paper presented by us. First of all, unlike Mr. Teltumbde, we do not have any particular fascination with the claim to novelty. What is right, is right, irrespective of the fact that a number of people have already said it. Secondly, he only mentions the propositions which are common to any radical charter on the caste question. We have two parts in the section pertaining to our proposed program on caste question. The first deals with long term tasks and the solution of caste question by a socialist society and the other with short term tasks that must be performed immediately. We would urge Mr. Teltumbde to go through the entire section of the approach paper again to understand the particularity of our position. Our stand on reservation is not shared by any of the Left organizations. Our stand on new type of anti-caste organizations also is not shared by the majority of the communist groups. It would be useless to mention each and every proposition here. We would request interested readers to visit the website of Arvind Memorial Trust (arvindtrust.org) and download the pdf file of the approach paper and read it. Mr. Teltumbde should compare proposal by proposal to prove that Ambedkar’s proposals were more radical, though according to Mr. Teltumbde, such a hierarchizing approach smacks of brahmanism, yet he becomes brahmanical according to his whims and fancies! We do not think in terms of “more” or “less” radical. It is question of standpoint. Anyone who reads our paper, would understand that ours is an alternative communist program of annihilation of caste, which is not dogmatic and open-ended. We never claim that our program is final and best; on the contrary, we believe that many things could be added into it or even subtracted from it. It is a humble proposal open for debate. We mentioned this in the seminar too. But Mr. Teltumbde is much too eager to prove that we have reproduced the old communist program! So we definitely cannot convince him.
25. In this para, once again the self-obsession of Mr. Anand Teltumbde is best apparent. Mr. Teltumbde argues that he has devised a practical blue print for the annihilation of caste in his book ‘Anti-Imperialism and Annihilation of Caste’. Now look at his findings, which he claims to be new and unprecedented. He says that he found that since the capitalist onslaught from the colonial period through the 1960s, the ritual castes are weakened and to speak about castes in a classical hierarchy is fruitless. Now, any student/academician/activist familiar with the modern historiography of caste knows that this finding of Mr. Teltumbde has nothing new in it. Irfan Habib in his famous article ‘Caste in Indian History’ makes the same argument. Historians like Suvira Jaiswal, R.S.Sharma, Vivekanand Jha had shown this way before Mr. Teltumbde wrote his book. So Mr. Teltumbde claim to novelty in this respect is at best hollow and at worst, a false one. The relation of caste system with rural bourgeoisie and rural proletariat also has long been established. Mr. Teltumbde is again making a false claim of novelty. Even documents of various communist groups in mention this facet of the caste system in the rural areas. How the economic interests of the kulaks and farmers express themselves in caste terms also is a known fact for a long time now. The same could be said about his “findings” about the nexus between the state and the class of the rural bourgeoisie. The fourth point of Mr. Teltumbde regarding the role of the advanced elements of society in educating the people against the evil of caste through political economy, also is an old one and has been put forward by many people including Ambedkar. However, we are skeptic about this hope of Mr. Teltumbde. Lastly, the Left is given the role of dealing “physically” with the elements who are incorrigible and participate in caste atrocities! Amazing! (The role of the Left is reduced to dealing “physically” with the perpetrators of caste atrocities while the role of teaching/preaching/sermonizing is secured for Mr. Teltumbde, because in his view, it it Mr. Teltumbde who has provided a blue-print for annihilation of caste!) To make his argument somewhat more tolerable, he says that through this role the Left can win the confidence of dalits, which will strengthen the forces of revolution and annihilation of castes. Then, Mr. Teltumbde gives his final teaching, “Do this much, and you will find yourself close to Annihilation of Castes.” To render his propositions more credibility, Mr. Teltumbde tells us that his model his supported by his own research in cybernetics! We can see Mr. Teltumbde going back, again, to his Deweyan “scientific” determinism. Whatever Mr. Teltumbde says, this much is clear: his claims to novelty are baseless and he has nothing new to offer as far as annihilation of caste is concerned.
26. In this para, Mr. Teltumbde claims that he did not retract his statements. He said that what I (Abhinav) strove to refute in my statement (the Deweyanism of Ambedkar and of Mr. Teltumbde in a different way) was not shared by Mr. Teltumbde. However, he himself admits that he liked the Deweyan method and found it akin to the method of science. This is what I refuted! I argued that Deweyan method projects itself to be the scientific method, but it is not. I have already shown in this response how Mr. Teltumbde is a true Deweyan. His whole line of argument is Deweyan in nature. Now Mr. Teltumbde is trying to show that he has no liking for Deweyan pragmatism and instrumentalism! Secondly, he did say that he agrees with what had been said by me. He said, “many good things have been said here and I agree with them.” Now, he is saying that he was referring to the paper. This is stupefying! And even if he was referring to the paper, he actually did reject the entire paper as being casteist and brahmanical in his first statement. (One can see all this in the video, the link of which is given below). Then he retracted his charge in the second statement. Mr. Teltumbde makes an amusing statement here. He says that he spoke something uncomfortably to get out of there, which cannot be construed as agreement with us! Now we leave the task of judging this bizarre statement to the readers. We would ask the readers as well as Mr. Teltumbde to see the video again. His tone in the first statement was like that of a preacher/teacher who came there to educate the ignorant Marxists. In the second statement, he “uncomfortably” expressed his agreement with “much of what had been said there” (in the paper or in my critique of Mr. Teltumbde, it does not matter, because there is no contradiction in the stand put forward in the paper and what I said). I would say the change is apparent between the tone of the first statement and the tone of the second statement itself, and it is so apparent that anyone can see it. He quotes me (“aisa mujhe dhwanit hua ki aapka comment pure paper par tha”). However, anyone who sees the video can understand that I was saying in a humble way that “yes, Mr. Teltumbde, you actually did reject our paper as casteist and brahmanical”. However, my tone could only be humble, because, as Mr. Teltumbde himself says, he is a “senior activist”! Now he can call it hallucination, or whatever he likes. But the video of the debate speaks for itself. This is very lame defence of his shifting positions by Mr. Teltumbde, to say the least.
27. In the last para, Mr. Teltumbde has bitterly rebuked the Ambedkarites who have been attacking him since his participation in the Chandigarh Seminar. However, here too it is not clear what he is defending in Ambedkar: the individual or his ideas. Because as far as thoughts are concerned, we do not know what can we learn from Deweyan pragmatism in our task of annihilation of caste. In fact, at several other places, Mr. Teltumbde himself says that Ambedkar never had a program for annihilation of caste. Then which ideas/thoughts of Ambedkar should be defended? Then again, Mr. Teltumbde shows his self-obsession and his baseless belief in the “innocence of dalits”. Let us have a look at some statements made in this para: “It is not I but you who have insulted Babasaheb Ambedkar in the process by exploiting the sentiments of his innocent people against someone (that is Mr. Teltumbde himself!) who has worked singularly for them keeping away from the camp of the ruling classes.”; “I am the one who has never shown any iota of bhakti to Babasaheb Ambedkar ulike your tribe but sincerely followed his role model in excelling in whatever I did, in standing firm on the side of the oppressed masses, securing capability of analyzing the world around us on their behalf…” Now one can see, to what extent Mr. Teltumbde is a sad victim of political Narcissism and self-obsession. He thinks of himself as the self-proclaimed hero of the dalit cause. And curiously enough, he has charged us of self-obsession!
In the end, we can only say that everyone should watch the video of our debate with Mr. Anand Teltumbde again and see the change in everything: the tone, the content, and the form. Watching the video itself is sufficient to understand the hollow claims made by Mr. Teltumbde in this article. We have given a parawise reply so that there is no possibility of confusion and all comrades can understand our refutation of Mr. Teltumbde clearly. We are again giving the link of the video for everyone’s convenience.
Link of the video of the entire debate : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYZPrNd4kDQ