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.

1 comment:

Maju said...

While I laughed a bit at your neologism "welfarism", which would deserve extensive discussion, I think you may be right, oddly enough, when you propose that, in some cases, there was a transition from tribalism (primitive communism?) to (proto-)capitalism.

I have mentioned before that some of the fastest developing societies in Capitalism were certainly underdeveloped in terms of Feudalism (dominance of free peasants, weakness of landowner aristocratic caste), so it's not really surprising to find such examples in Kerala either.