CASTE, CLASS AND IDENTITY POLITICS
The beginning, on a large scale, of what is termed as identity politics can be traced back to the decade of 1980. As is clear from its name, the concept of identity is central to it. In sociological and socio-anthropological terms, ‘identity’ is a set of behavioural and individual characteristics which gives recognition to an individual as member of a group. This identity is determined by objective social categories such as caste, gender, religious community, race etc. and is generally considered as relatively stable, static and naturally given. It is this very definition of identity which is the point of departure for identity politics. However, as a collective phenomenon, it does not speak of any single identity; rather it emphasises on several fragmented identities. This fragmentation of identities not only takes place at the level of personality of an individual, but also at the plane of society as a whole. In a class society, a man\woman has multiple identities. Every individual has the identities of caste, language, region and nationality. The identity politics highlights these identities and essentialises them. One of the identities (which cannot be even termed as an identity in the true sense) which this politics does not even mention is the class identity. The class identity is not given naturally, racially, regionally or linguistically. The class identity is formed during society’s basic activity viz. the productive activity; the people who are engaged in these activities come to establish certain definite social relations which are independent of their will. However, the politics of identity never lays any emphasis on this identity. You will get to see innumerable NGOs which are founded on gender, caste, region or linguistic identity. However, you can hardly come across any workers’ NGO!
What is the motive behind overstressing the primitive communal identity and ignoring the class identity? In order to understand this, it is imperative to first understand the global material background of the emergence of the identity politics. Besides,the phenomenon of emergence of fora such as, ‘New Social Movements’, World Social Forum as well as that of non-government organisations (NGOs) must be contextualised within the perspective of identity politics.
The Material Background of the Rise of Identity Politics
In the 1980s and 1990s, following the beginning of the process of globalization, the neo-liberal economic policies were implemented in those countries of the world where people were uprooted on a large scale, the unemployment increased rapidly and popular unrest grew tremendously. In such a scenario, in order to douze the extreme public anger over the effects of the processes of globalization and in order to blur the ever intensifying class contradictions, a need for the ideological weapon of the identity politics arose which could, at least, look radical in its appearance. The identity politics while talking about the “peripheral” and “marginalised” identities, overlooks the class identity. For instance, there is an NGO called World Mountains People’s Association which is funded by the French government. This NGO appeals to unite all the people living in the Mountainous regions, not only in the country but throughout the world! According to it, the mountainous people, irrespective of the fact whether they are rich or poor, share the same issues because they live on mountains! This, too, is a kind of politics based on the invocation of regional and communal identity.
Thus, the identity politics was brought into play to prevent any class-based unity as a result of intensifying class division and polarization due to globalization. The identity politics is, in fact, a part of the internal mechanism of the global capitalism which is funded by the capitalism itself as a counter-balancing force for keeping in check the inevitable explosive social consequences of the process of globalization. If the independent logic of capital develops uninterruptedly,the explosion of social class polarization and deepening social contradictions would soon take the capitalist system towards its culmination. In order to prevent this to happen, the bourgeois theoreticians, statepowers and international agencies keep on creating different kinds of ‘speed breakers’ and ‘safety-valves’, erecting the second and third line of defence for the system and infiltrating different kinds of ‘Trojan horses’ within the mass movements. The forums such as World Social Forum, which claims to be a common platform for the ‘new social movements’, are performing the role of such Trojan horses only. This name itself is amusing. They stress on being social precisely because they are not political. Being political would mean to raise the question of state, the question of system. However, these movements do not wish to raise precisely these questions. Today the same is being done by the so-called ‘New Social Movements’ as well as myriad NGOs and organizations and movements sponsored by them which raise the slogan of identity politics. They take away the problem of state and system from the realm of questions. The capitalist class is never put into the dock. What is not spelt out is that who the enemy is and whom to fight. Raising finger against the government is deemed incorrect and by employing radical slogans and talking about people’s initiative, initiative from below etc. responsibility of all sorrows, distress and problems is put on people’s shoulders.
There is yet another important point which needs to be drawn attention to. The capitalist system is a homogeniser and it requires certain extent of uniformity on the plane of identity. On the economic plane, capitalism carries out a process of universalization. The economic universalization gets expressed in the universalization in the superstructure as well. Capitalism undertakes a kind of universalisation of the identity of man/woman,too, as well as, in form of a human being, as an independent individual,too, at least temporarily,it does this. It is capitalism itself which creates a sense of class within the working class and in this sense if we term the class as identity in a particular historical sense, it creates a class identity. But this universal identity could prove dangerous for capitalism, especially in its most moribund and parasitic phase because it, on its own, moves towards class polarization. It is for the first time that capitalism creates class divisions in the society in such an intense manner. The class consciousness which gets generated in this process is fatal to capitalism.
Therefore, while on the economic plane the moribund capitalism, which isdevoid of all progressive potentialities, requires universalization, it needs fragments on the plane of superstructure. It needs to revive all those dead identities against which it had declared a war during the anti-feudal struggle. It is in this broad perspective that the political agenda behind the identity politics can be situated.
Identity Politics and Postmodernism
This is nothing but a postmodernist agenda. The postmodernist philosophy informs us that the era of meta-narratives is over. Every kind of universalization, generalization, homogenization and standardization is repressive. The Western Imperialism subordinates the Eastern world in the name of modernity, rationality etc. According to the postmodernist philosophy, all these ideologies, in fact, are part of a Western conspiracy, namely, enlightenment! As against the Western colonial discourse, it glorifies ‘traditional knowledge’, ‘oriental innocence’, indegenous community, identity, language, culture etc. Although Postmodernism is against all kinds of essentialization, it does positive absolutization of myriad pre-modern/oriental identities in its fight against modernity. Whatever is native and pre-modern is good; modernity is undesirable.
It was Lyotard who pioneered the agenda of Postmodernism on the philosophical plane in the latter half of 1970s and early half of 1980s. Subsequently various ‘post’ ideological streams began to be piled up, e.g. Post-colonial thought, Post-Structuralism, Post-Marxism, Post-Feminism, Post-Orientalism etc. All of these are, essentially, various parts, dimensions or extensions of the postmodernist thought itself. The focal point of all these thought-streams is the concept of power. According to Michel Foucault, a major stalwart of post-modernist thought, power permeates every nook and corner of the society; and it is diffused and decentralised. It is prevalent in every part of day-to-day life and it gets internalised by people. It is irresistible because any effective collective resistance, which has the potential of social transformation, gives rise to the ‘new forms of power’. Hence any collective fight for any social transformation is undesirable. Every collective resistance will give rise to new forms of power and therefore, all collective resistance againgt repression is futile. If collective resistance will ultimately give rise to power and repression only, why take pain to resist against it, at all? Under such a situation how could then one resist power? As per Foucault, you could resist against power and repression by rejecting all kinds of norms and universals in your personal life. The concept of standardization, universalization and generalization remain at the heart of power and repression. The only way out is to rebel against all norms and universals pertaining to gender identity, caste identity etc. in the personal life. The same was termed as Queer Theory by Foucault. It is not a coincidence that in the NGO world, numerous NGOs are working on the alternative sexual identity for the rights of LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Trans gender) community. It is evident that by rejecting the concept of all kinds of collective resistance (read class resistance!) Postmodernism takes away all kinds of agency from change.
Where then lies the solution? Some other postmodernist philosophers suggest slightly different solution. According to them, the solution lies in those structures which are yet to be polluted with the influence of power. Colonialism and Imperialism happen to be a form of power itself. They were resisted from the ground of Nationalism in the anti-colonial struggle. However, Nationalism too, is a modern philosophy which happens to be a product of West. Hence the power structure is inherent in it too. That is why, the post-colonial state, which came into being after the successful fight of nationalism, is, in fact, a modern state. Today Imperialism cannot be opposed from the ground of Modernism because modernity happens to be a cultural-philosophical project for the global domination of Imperialism itself and from its ground the hegemony and power cannot be resisted. Therefore, as per these thinkers we will have to find out those structures which are pre-modern, which are untouched by power and untouched by western influence! And what all could such structures entail? All pre-modern identities, all “primitive” identities (here the term primitive is not used in the sense of being backward, rather to refer to those identities which do not arise during socio-economic interaction or exchange, rather they are naturally given) such as tribal, Dalit, woman (particularly within the home!) etc. Thus, according to the postmodernist thought, Enlightenment, scientific revolutions, rationality, humanism etc. are all part of a project of global domination by West. According to them, all these need to be rejected because they are reductionist, universalistic, monolithic and homogenising etc.
Marxism,in particular, is always targetted by these streams of thought. Marxism, too, is rejected by terming it as part of a ‘modernist meta-narrative project’ as well as of western conspiracy for establishing global domination of Enlightenment. Although someone who has studied even the basic works of Marxism, knows that Marxism has never adopted a non-dialectical or uncritical approach towards Enlightenment. For instance, in the pamphlet ‘Socialism:Utopian and Scientific’ written for workers, Engels had drawn attention to both the positive and negative aspects of enlightenment philosophy and rationality. However, the motive of the likes of Foucault and Lyotard behind throwing the entire project of enlightenment into the garbage bin is not so much to cast aside the heritage of their bourgeois forefathers than it is to attack Marxism. It is akin to waging a proxy war against Marxism. Marxism as well as all those ideologies which talks of social transformation, are declared as western conspiracy and we are told not to think about class, socialism etc. Instead we have to preserve the smaller fragments i.e. community, caste, domestic world of women, etc. All these are autonomous spaces which are free from the infuence of power structures of western Enlightenment. Since the era of meta-narratives is over, hence the era of class struggle, revolution, social change, which happen to be meta-narratives, is also over. This is the postmodern era and in the postmodern era, in the words of Lyotard itself, ‘meta-narratives are incredulous’. (The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, 1979).
Therefore. now it is the era of smaller, fragmented, peripheral struggles—the caste-based struggles, women’s struggles, tribals’ struggle, the struggles of indegenous communities for preserving the environment etc. We have to build an autonomous space for these peripheral identities while remaining within the ambit of the system.
Few years ago, “Post-Marxist” thinkers, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, in their book ‘Hegemony and Socialist strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics’ have taken this postmodernist philosophy to greater heights! As per Laclau and Mouffe, all kinds of repression are subjective. It has nothing to do with the objective reality and the concrete inhumanities of repression. This, in fact, amounts to deny the possibility of a broad united movement against an exploitative and repressive system. In other words, here, too, the irresistibility of the power structures is being highlighted.
Postmodern Agenda and Sub-altern Studies in India
In the intellectual world of India, the postmodernist agenda has been most effectively implemented by the historians of Subaltern Studies. After initially confining itself largely to the Marxist terminology and analysis, a linguistic turn occured in the Subaltern Studies under the influence of Edward Said and Michel Foucault. Within the Subaltern Studies, the postmodern agenda was effectively implemented especially by Partha Chatterjee, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Gyanendra Pandey and Gyan Prakash. In the early articles of the Subaltern Studies series of books, Ranajit Guha described the purpose of this entire endeavour as to “correct the elitist bias” in the history writing. However, the subsequent Subaltern Studies remained vacillating between derivative discourse, indegenous community and ‘fragment’, all the three of which are the categories of postmodernist discourse. Partha Chatterjee, in his book ‘Nationalist Thought in a Colonial World: a Derivative Discource”, says that the intellectual class in India had come under the hegemony of colonial power-knowledge and hence it was capable of only undertaking derivative discourse. Thus, the middle class intellectual realm in the National Movement had entirely come under the grips of the modern thought. It enjoyed no agency. Beyond this intellectual world, in which the structures of power have made inroads and thus polluted it, there lies a world of community consciousness which is pure, primitive and holy. In Indian context, Partha Chatterjee sees it in relation to ‘peasant consciousness’ which happens to be free from the western hegemonic influence. Gandhi is claimed to be its symbol.
Such an analogy is, however, amusing. Gandhi was a modern thinker. His humanism, despite its spiritual cover, language and style, was essentially a bourgeois humanism. Partha Chatterjee does not deem it necessary to see as to how colonialism had co-opted the indegenous structures and used them in colonial exploitation. And these indegenous structures were used not due to their ‘oriental innocence’ (as stated by Ashish Nandy) but owing to their vested interests.
After Edward Said and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak joined the project of Subaltern Studies, the emphasis on fragments and communities was enhanced. The postcolonial state was declared as being part of the project of western cultural domination of Enlightenment. This state had come into existence via nationalism, which was nothing but the derivative discourse of the colonial discourse. Severed from socio-economic perspective and context, the community and fragments were glorified.
In 1993, with Partha Chatterjee’s book ‘The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Post-colonial Studies’, the Subaltern Studies attained its logical nirvana. Chatterjee discusses Dalits, women, etc. separately as the fragments of nation. There cannot share a common agenda and all these fragments are reified in such a manner that they could not be joined together. According to Chatterjee, during the Nationalist phase, the expression of the initiative and autonomy of women could only be found in home, or at the most, in autobiographies. Chatterjee is completely silent on all the myriad activities and political associations in which women had enthusiastically participated in the 1920s. This book is silent even on the caste-based movements of Phule, Periyar or Ambedkar. In this book, Chatterjee puts forward a new binary—material/spiritual. ‘Material’ is that which is outside, non-domestic, masculine and ‘spiritual’ is that which is inside, domestic and feminine. In the spiritual world, the colonial subject used to establish its autonomy while being co-opted by the British in the material world; for instance, on the issue of equality before law, Chaterjee considers it to be co-opted by the western hegemonic project. Every resistance against Imperialism which was carried out in a modern manner, in a secular way, and with economic critique, in fact, amounted to surrendering before the hegemonic enlightenment project of Imperialism. That is to say, all the battles which Nationalism fought were co-option by Imperialism
In this opposition to modernity, Dipesh Chakrabarty has left even Partha Chatterjee behind. In his article titled ‘The Difference Deferral of a Colonial Modernity: Public Debates on Domesticity in British Bengal’, Chakrabarty has found irreducible categories of “beauty” in the domestic glorification of Kul and Grih Lakshmi. Chaterjee sees them as an ideal form of autonomous, non-bourgeois and non-secular individuality. Here no one needs to ask the question ‘why’. So what if these are patriarchal, after all they are pre-modern! Chakrabarty believes that a woman’s strength lies in the arena of oriental domesticity only. Thus, the women must feel complacent by looking for the source of their strength in precisely those tasks which the Hindu religion and civilization deems fit for women! What it is, if not a vulgar perversion of the resistance of women?
The Subaltern historians take the concept of the autonomy of the communities to the extent of putting an end to the interference of modern state in the community affairs. Did anyone hear the resonance of allowing Khap Panchayats to carry out freely their barbaric Talibanistic diktats in this? It is not surprising at all. This entire discourse is at times found standing on the side of communal fascism and at others, on that of neo-liberal capitalism. In the domain of oriental innocence, all that comes which takes place in Indian society, without the interference of state. For instance, practice ofSati, the protection of culture by the Khap Panchayats, the repression of women etc. The modern state does not have any interference in all these, and often, it is some section of people themselves who execute such acts on the basis of their much eulogised pre-modern and oriental consciousness. And yet these all are proper and desirable for the afore-mentioned Subaltern historians because they are feats of the oriental innocence divided or organised, as they are, in fragments.
Two Forms of Identity Politics and the Intersection between Caste Politics and Identity Politics
The identity politics derives its ideological fuel from this very postmodernist stream of thought. The fragments which the Postmodernism talks about is being implemented on the plane of identities by identity politics. The entire NGO sector is also linked with this very idea. By dividing the different sections of masses into fragmented identities, the NGO sector is carrying out the dangerous task of misdirecting and disintegrating the people’s struggle through reformism. In fact, it is a conspiracy of blunting the class consciousness of people by celebrating the fragments. The NGO sector acts as a mechanism of ‘safety-valve’ within the capitalist system and every now and then, it plays the role of restraining people’s anger and discontent. We must understand the gravity of their conspiracy.
There is yet another perspective where the influence of identity politics can be discerned. The surge of the fascist majoritarian Hindutva politics in recent years is, in fact, an expression of politics of identity itself. Any such right-wing fundamentalist politics is established on a static ideal of identity and acquires legitimation for the same by posing the myths as reality and common sense through an imagined past. All such right-wing appropriations are inherent in identity politics. In present times, not only the peripheral identities, but more so the mainstream identities are using the tool of identity politics for their vested interests. This, too, is a dangerous trend.
Both these forms of the identity politics present themselves as contrary and alternative to each other; however, in reality they are not two separate antagonistic forces at all. They only present themselves as such. That is to say, the NGO politics and the right-wing religious fundamentalist and communal fascist politics are the two sides of the same coin. Although they present themselves as mutually antagonistic, they share a fundamental unity in terms of ideology and philosophy. We can say that they present themselves as the binary of false alternatives. The same was termed as ‘disjunctive synthesis’ by Gilles Deleuze—a set of opposites in which the elements presented as opposites are, in fact, not opposite to each other.
After examining the key theoretico-ideological formulations of the identity politics and revealing its philosophical essence, now we are largely in a position to arrive at the conclusion that in the present times, the caste-based politics is actually a form of identity politics only. The caste-based politics in both its avatars—the casteist politics of upper castes and the Dalit politics—is an expression of identity politics only. In this form, they can be termed as’inverted mirror image’ of each other. Here too, we can see a kind of ‘disjunctive synthesis’, a binary of false alternatives, which in reality are not at all alternatives of each other; because in their own ways, both are based on the ‘over-identification’ of politics with the caste identity. Here it is not necessary to discuss the casteist identity politics being put to practice by the different organizations of the upper castes. Nothing remains to be deciphered regarding its reactionary, barbaric and inhuman character. There is tremendous unity between form and content.
However, the politics practised around the Dalit identity by the Dalit organizations,too, is fulfilling the agenda of the identity politics itself, even if in some cases there is a genuine desire for and intention of Dalit emancipation. No politics and organization based upon identity can have a project for social emancipation. No real fundamental issue can be meaningfully raised on the basis of caste-based, gender-based, linguistic or national identity. Therefore, through identity politics, the Dalit organizations are, in fact, serving,even if unconsciously, the capitalist system itself. This is the class character of the identity politics which is status-quoist as well as reactionary. All their good intentions notwithstanding, such Dalit organizations are not being able to implement a really effective project of Dalit emancipation; moreover, they could never be able to prepare any such project, standing as they are on the ground of identity politics. Undoubtedly, there are many such people in these organizations who, honestly and militantly think about the project of Dalit emancipation and are active. However, in absence of a correct politics, such thinking and activism often do not head in any direction, or usually begin to serve the forces representing the status-quo. Because as long as it is not clear as to who is really responsible for the caste-based oppression as well as other forms of exploitation-oppression and whom should one fight, the resistance against it, is bound to be misplaced. Here it is necessary to clarify that when we are referring to Dalit organizations here, we do not at all mean the bourgeois electoral parties deeply enmeshed in the bourgeois politics like BSP which claim to represent the interests of Dalits but use them merely as vote-bank ( although till a few years ago, several intellectuals claiming to be leftist were gloating over Mayawati’s ascent to power,over the fact that now the steps of Dalits are being heard in the corridors of power. Thankfully, such foolish cacophony has been silenced with all the records of atrocities committed on Dalits being broken during Mayawati’s reign!). In this respect, the less one talks about Bahujan Samaj Party,the better. The BSP, under the leadership of Mayawati, has set several new records of bourgeois electoral opportunism. To savour the fruits of power, it did not even refrain from making an electoral alliance with the upper-casteist fascist Hindu right-wing forces. In Uttar Pradesh, the brunt of Mayawati’s ‘social engineering’ had been borne by none other than the poor Dalits themselves. Among those who practise electoral Dalit identity politics, the case of Mayawati is not unique or peculiar. The position of Ramdas Athawale, Dalit Panthers’ leader in Tamil Nadu, Thor Thirumavalvan, Ramvilas Paswan etc. is no different. At times, they are seen sitting in the lap of BJP and at others in Congress’s.
The hollowness of politics, of not only these electoral Dalit political parties (which are intentionally dishonest,too and which are wholeheartedly engrossed in serving capitalism) but even that of the non-electoral Dalit organizations practising identity politics (many of which honestly raise the agenda of Dalit liberation) could be revealed through just one incident which goes on to show that there is nothing left in their politics, except for empty symbolism. Recently, two incidents occurred on the national plane, which were of real and symbolic importance for the common poor Dalit population. One was the exoneration of the rich upper-caste people accused of genocide of Dalits in Bathani Tola by the court and the another was putting a cartoon of Nehru and Ambedkar in the NCERT book prepared by Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palsikar. Both these incidents took place within a gap of only few days. But many Dalit organizations forgot even to issue an statement on the release of the accused in the Bathani Tola genocide, while much mayhem was caused on the cartoon controversy. Some people even attacked the office of Suhas Palsikar. It is a matter of a separate discussion as to what was right and what was wrong in the cartoons of Nehru and Ambedkar; this, too, could be a matter detailed discussion as to whether Ambedkar can be criticised or he should be declared beyond criticism, so that the “nation” could get rid of “upper-caste guilt conscience”; one could even discuss as to whether there is any qualitative difference between what was done in Suhas Palshikar’s office and what the Hindutva forces used to do with Hussain’s paintings or what they did in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute; and finally there could be a discussion even on the issue as to whether there is any need for new idols in a country full of idols of various kinds. However, for now we will not go into these discussions and would only allude to the fact that the Dalit organizations did not make as much noise on the acquittal of the murderers of Bathani Tola as they did on the cartoons of Ambedkar and Nehru. Does it not reveal the hollow symbolism of the whole of Dalit identity politics?
Like all bourgeois political forces, the parties practising Dalit identity politics safeguard those very class relations which prepare the conditions for caste-based oppression. And all caste-based parties prevent the forging of class unity and end up strengthening the caste-based dividing line. And even the non-electoral Dalit identity politics objectively does the same thing. The political character of an organization is not determined by the socio-economic roots of its members. For instance, a Dalit organization cannot be accepted as being representing the correct politics of the Dalit liberation simply because the majority of its members happen to be Dalits. It is from this ground that several Dalit thinkers often ask as to how many Dalits are there in the leadership of a particular party. For instance, often this question is posed by the Dalit thinkers to the people belonging to communist party that how many Dalits are there in their Central Committee. However, from the same logic can’t someone ask a question from the numerous existing Dalit organizations that how many workers are there in their leading bodies? We believe that both these questions are incorrect and are raised from the ground of identitarian thinking. This then follows that we can decide about the political ideology of an organization through the family and birth of those present in its leadership. Is not this too a kind of Brahmanical logic? The character of a political ideology is determined by the fact as to which particular class is this ideology serving, not by the fact as in which family its carriers were born. The logic of identity politics is a circular logic which in no time brings you to the same place where you started from. In a way, it contains the logic of its own defeat within itself. The correct way of attacking the savarnvad should be to eradicate it forever. How does emphasising upon the Dalit identity from the logic of identity politics assist in the objective of striking a blow on savarnvad? It is obvious that the casteism of the upper-castes cannot be countered, under any circumstance, from the ground of identitarian Dalit politics.
So what should be done in such a scenario? We would like to reiterate that we will have to mobilise broad cross-section of poor population around an identity which could result into maximum possible mass-mobilisation; and class identity happens to be one such identity which is not an identity in the true sense of the term. The concept of class expresses a social relation. According to Lenin, “Classes are large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in the historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organization of labour, and, consequently, by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it. Classes are groups of people one of which can appropriate the labour of another owing to the different places they occupy in a definite system of social economy.” As is clear from this definition, class is a relative concept. Class is not only an economic phenomenon but it gets expressed in the multiple forms in culture, literature and society. The charges of class reductionism and economic determinism levelled against Marxism, in fact, ammounts to maltreatment of facts. Engels had clarified at one place, “According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. Other than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure—political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas—also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form.”
Class “identity” is a modern “identity” which internally cuts across all other identities. This is the identity which could give rise to a progressive revolutionary mass mobilisation. In this sense, class identity is an overriding identity which exists by cutting across all other identities. Whatever be the nation, whatever be the caste, the language, the region, its people are divided in classes and an acute polarization has taken place among them. Here it is important to clarify that to highlight the class identity is not to suppress or destroy the particularities of other identities. To consolidate the class identity is to raise the class consciousness and its aim is to do extensive mass mobilisation around the class identity, whatever be the caste, religion, region, language, nationality etc. The path of the project for emancipation of broad cross-section of masses could be only this. As soon as we recognise the forces responsible for the caste-based, national, gender-based oppression, we realise that our common enemy in the project for Dalit liberation, putting an end to national repression, annihilation of women oppression and inequality is capitalism and the capitalist class itself. The caste could be eliminated only when the project for the radical transformation of the entire socio-economic structure, abolition of every kind of inequality and establishment of an egalitarian society reaches its destination. It surely does not mean that we are putting forth a proposal to keep on hold the struggle against casteism and casteist mentality till such a revolution and the creation of such a society takes place. We know it very well that without a perpetual propaganda against the casteist mentality and casteism, the proletariat, too, cannot be united as a class. In fact, the task of creating class consciousness is inevitably and imminently linked to the struggles against caste and casteism with full force from today itself. Without this the proletariat cannot be aroused, mobilised and organised against capitalism as a class. But all attempts of reifying this important question of caste as a separate fragment will lead towards the identity politics only and will play no less a role in dividing the toiling masses in pieces than the capitalist upper-caste ideology. Therefore, the solution to the caste question calls for a revolutionary class perspective, not the identity politics which celebrates the fragments.
(Translated from Hindi: Anand Singh)