Saturday, June 19, 2010

Communism and Kerala -iii

My reading tells me, the Marxist-Leninist socioeconomic model of a society was Feudalism-> Capitalism-> Socialism-> Communism. Here the former two were realities and the latter two were dreams. The socioeconomic model that I have dealt with till now envisages a society's transition from feudalism to capitalism and then to welfarism. But I do not consider this a standard model for every society. In fact, a tribal society that had self transformed itself to sedentary civilization may not exhibit this. Feudalism which requires slave or bonded labourers may have many reasons for its origins. The point I want to discuss here is Kerala's socioeconomic transition model.

Kerala might have experienced a different sequence in the formation of its society. This model probably is restricted to Malabar (North Kerala) along with Tulu region.

Though there are evidences that Dravidian tribes in Central India moved to sedentary life and started occupying all of South India for almost 3000-3500 BP, it should be said that bourgeois life was crystallized in  East India long before South. In fact, the earliest Prakrit speakers who moved to South were most likely artisans and merchants (or after nomadic herders of North).

The Malayalis even though ruled by Tamil kings for a long time were most likely in tribal stage. However, since both Kerala and Tulu region had a maritime trade life, they attracted various guilds to that region as back as 2000 years ago. Considering the fact that there was a caste of ship builders (called Odiyon, subcaste of carpentars), we can argue they had an active maritime trade.

If one considers the North Kerala, the earliest extant ballads (Vadakkan Pattugal, Songs from the North) then one can observe the transition from a Bourgeois society to Feudal society. The earliest available work, Payyannur Pattu, is completely devoted to merchants (I suppose true in the case of Tamil region too). Curiously, merchants are the city[1] chieftains. There is absolutely no mention of any castes in Kerala society of that period. However, the later Vadakkan Pattugal(Aromal and Unniyarcha or Taccholi Udenan) give a picture of feudal Malayali society.

Because of the above factors I would consider the first transition that Kerala society experienced was from tribalism->capitalism. But soon both Tulu and Kerala society turned into feudal societies (Tulu earlier). The reason I believe was because of the stagnant knowledge[2] of ship builders. This caste could no longer match the advanced ships of Arabs and later Europeans.

In my opinion, the transition of Malayali society has been: Tribalism -> Capitalism -> Feudalism -> Socialism(present).

[1] The term for city, 'Nagara', was associated with aristan or merchant guilds. Wherever these guilds established themselves they called that place 'Nagara'. Similar to word 'bourgeoisie' even these guild people were known as 'city dwellers'. In fact, a Tamil merchant caste is called just that, Nagarattar, city dweller or bourgeoisie.

[2] Primitiveness of skill was common across all occupations castes. I suppose the knowledge stagnation caused by the caste system was responsible for keeping all the artisans and other occupational groups in South to their primitive techniques for a very long time. However, their northern counterparts were somewhat liberated from this fate because of repeated attacks from outside the subcontinent which brought in new ideas.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Negatively and Positively Privileged Groups - i

Max Weber observed that positively privileged and negatively privileged groups develop worldview in conformation to their orientation to the world. Positively privileged groups have a sense of their human dignity that is related to their "being" - that is, their "beauty and excellence" - so that their "kingdom is 'of this world'" and they "live for the present ... by exploiting their great past." Negatively privileged groups cultivate a sense of human dignity that is related to the future. These groups are "nurtured by the belief in a providential mission," or by a belief that "the last will be first" in another life, or that in this life a messiah will appear who will "bring forth into the light of the world which his cast them out the hidden honour of the pariah people."

I read the above paragraph in "Sociological Theory" (Adams and Sydie). According to the editors, Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech was future oriented dream, just as white supremacist references to glorious Confederate tradition are present - and past - oriented.

I suppose the entire thing boils down to, positively privileged people think of a glorious past that has continued to the present. Whereas the negatively privileged (Oxymoron?) people think of glory in the future.

When it comes to India there are no absolutely positively privileged(PP) people since non-Indians have colonized us. Though there are absolutely negatively privileged people (NP). However, surprisingly, both PP and NP have only glorious past. We don't find visionaries like Martin Luther King among our NP. The creation of glorious past begins with one of the greatest leaders and scholars of India Dr. Ambedkar.

Ambedkar was the first one to come up with theory of Kshatriya -> Buddhist -> Shudra transformation. The problem was old works/scriptures did not have any clear identities so anybody could fill the gap.  I'm not sure which approach was better. Dr. King's hope of better future or Dr. Ambedkar's hope of reclaiming better past. Of course, many castes of India (who are relatively PP and NP) have their own glorious past. But the people who created these glorious past for other castes were generally primitive casteists. But Ambedkar was certainly not one among them.

In my opinion, Ambedkar was forced to come up with the glorious past theory as he was unable to counter racial superiority theory that was being circulated during that time, mostly based on pseudo scientific skin colour and skull shape. He might have come up with that theory in the hope that his people wouldn't be discouraged by their born inferiority as suggested by those pseudo-scientific studies.

1. Sociological Theory - Adams and Sydie
2. Essential Writings of  Dr.B R Ambedkar - Ed. Valerian Rodrigues

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Communism and Kerala -ii

My previous post discussed how true Marxist philosophy, which at the core envisaged a class struggle by urban workers against the bourgeoisie, never really materialized. As Maju pointed out wherever it had succeeded (Russia and China) the class struggle was against the feudal system.

When Karl Marx had come up with his theories, his reference society was a bourgeois society. His society had already moved from the feudal economy (which was broken by the bourgeoisie) to the capitalist economy. His theories, though not intended, became successful in feudal societies. Kerala was not different in this respect.

However, it's tough to call this as a success of Marxist ideology. First of all, his(Marx's) fundamental theory about 'alienation' has no meaning in these societies. A peasant or an independent artisan (who still would form the bulk of these societies) weren't the true alienated people. The movement that happened had Marxism in name but not in essence. Therefore, we must conclude that the communist movements in any feudal societies were devoid of any ideology. But that stand needs to be corrected after 'Maoism'.

 Mao Ze Dong, in fact , gave clear ideological base for a communist revolution in the feudal societies. In this ideology cadres are peasants and not urban workers. Therefore, alienation is irrelevant. It's also called 'Agrarian Sociology'. Even though Maoism is probably the much later ideology, we can extrapolate it to Indian communist movements and consider Indian communists of Kerala and Bengal were following the ideology of Mao. I suppose, main communist party of India which calls itself Communist Party of India (Marxist), should rename itself to Communist Party of India (Maoist). The ideology that best describes it is Maoist and not Marxist.

Now, this also explains why a Marxist economy failed absolutely in Mao's China or Kerala and West Bengal. The creation of new economy in Marxist sociology was based on a worker who felt alienation in a Capitalist society. However, psychology of feudal society people is entirely different. The socialist economy model is not for these people. Now, it also explains the post-Mao China. We need to bear in mind that Marx's reference society had moved from feudalism to capitalism. This gives us clue for the natural course a society should take. One should bring down a feudal society and then create a capitalist society in its place. China is exactly moving towards Marx's reference society. Since Marx's reference society mostly moved from  capitalist to socialist-capitalist (centrist...capitalism with insurance and social security) economy instead of pure socialist economy and this would probably be the case with China too. Urban worker would probably remain alienated as long as he has leisure to think about it.

Now, there is another movement in India which though calls itself Maoist is nothing but that in its orientation and essence. The Naxal cadres are mostly tribals. Now, the tribal life is entirely different from a civilized human life centred around labour. Also, tribals don't live in feudal society but a free society of their own. Their problem is that they are exploited by non-tribals. But there is no ideology that defines their movement. It's totally chaotic. The scope of the movement has nothing to do with true aspirations of people it represents. And I'm sure their economic model would be catastrophic.

But does that mean the state need to help creating a feudal society among these tribals hoping that they would someday bring it down and create a capitalist society and then move to a centrist society?