Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

The Left Vote in North Ireland


What does the success of People before Profit candidates mean?

 by John McAnulty

The election of two Socialist Workers Party/People Before Profit candidates to the Stormont Assembly on May 5 at the end of a lacklustre election campaign in the North of Ireland was like a lightning flash, providing excitement and colour.

The results was generally welcomed by political commentators as showing that the Irish peace process had come of age and that the Stormont assembly had matured to the point where it could accommodate a socialist presence.

The candidates responded to the publicity with a great deal of bombast. Eamon McCann sang the internationale and announced that the new movement was neither Orange or Green, but a socialist movement gathering votes from across the sectarian divide.

It was not long before these claims were challenged. A Sinn Fein supporter carried out an analysis of transfer patterns and showed that the PBP vote came almost exclusively from disaffected Sinn Fein and SDLP voters. It was part of a wider pattern of dissatisfaction among nationalist voters which involved a fall in the overall vote and an increase in votes for independents. Evidence of vote transfer from unionist supporters was vanishingly small.

SWP members defended their organization, arguing that the vote did not invalidate their non-sectarian policy.

Electoralist alliances

That won’t wash. The SWP proclaimed their neutrality on the Irish national question while at the same time targeting over many years the two most deprived nationalist constituencies in North. The Socialist Party, with their own front, Labour Alternative, stood in unionist areas with derisory results.

So behind the bombast was a very carefully crafted and exclusively electoral strategy. When we see that the vote came, not on the back of working class upsurge, but on the back of a substantial defeat for the working class and the imposition of the Fresh Start austerity programme, it is necessary to investigate further.

Unlike the majority of socialist electoral gains these gains for the SWP were not based on an upsurge in struggle - rather the reverse. What brought victory was a series of alliances. Election statements were aimed at specific constituencies, but each had less to say than met the eye.

Don’t mention Sinn Fein

The main constituency was dissatisfied nationalist voters and this was addressed by statements on the Casement park scandal, where planning and safety regulations had been set aside to force through a GAA superstadium. Gerry Carroll decried "poor administration" but stopped well short of exposing the sectarian sharing out of spoils and rampant corruption involved in the deal.

In addition in both constituencies there was a substantial republican vote. The republican groupings do not stand candidates for Stormont, but are willing to lend their votes. They got almost nothing in return - a vague statement of concern about prisoners - but the intervention of Bernadette McAliskey in support of the PBP campaign was decisive in ensuring this vote.

Finally the PBP campaign appears to have been the only campaign to voice opposition to the Fresh Start austerity offensive, but PBP clarified their opposition by saying they would work wlth UNITE and UNISON trade union leaderships around campaigns such as local mental health. As both union leaderships have signed up to Fresh Start, the statement amounts to nothing more than dancing in the cracks inside an austerity budget.

Minimalist Programme

These positions translate into a minimalist programme for the new MLAs. Asked to accept that his election was due to Sinn Fein’s failure to alleviate levels of deprivation in West Belfast, Gerry Carroll managed to answer without mentioning Sinn Fein. In fact there are few direct criticisms. Those who see PBP as a left opposition to Sinn Fein are clearly unaware of the level of collaboration between the groups on both sides of the border.

However the key alliance in the electoral jigsaw is the alliance with the left of the trade union bureaucracy. Both Carroll and McCann are closely involved with the trade unlons. They can be said to be on the left, but hardly be called a left opposition.

So when, in his first speech in Stormont, Eamonn McCann criticises the Stormont executive for not fighting hard enough against the cuts, he reinforces the Sinn Fein narrative that the cuts are "British cuts" and the trade union narrative that we can pressure and persuade "our politicians" to protect us from austerity and that the best thing is to keep lobbying and avoid confrontation.

Sinister mantra

But the most sinister mantra is the claim that PBP are neither Orange nor Green, but socialist. This is quite a shift to the right for a group that historically defended the democratic validity of the call for a united Ireland.

Again it is a reflection of the ideology of the trade union bureaucracy - a neutrality on the national question that in a heartbeat becomes capitulation to Loyalism and the promotion of sectarian gangsters to be accepted as representatives of the Protestant workers they oppress.

So the task of socialists becomes one of polishing their non-sectarian halos. Sectarianism is yet again some form of disease from which "all sides" suffer equally and the socialists are blind to the material base of sectarianism in the structures of the Assembly they sit in and in the background sponsorship of the British state.

A SWP spin doctor has had the bright idea that this election can be compared to the election of two of Socialist Democracy’s progenitor People’s Democracy councillors during the hunger strikes. In terms of politics the current programme comes closer to the rise of the old Northern Ireland Labour Party. There was room for the NILP in the old Stormont as long as it remained stable. When that political structure began to decay it vanished llke smoke.

Today the excitement around the new political formation was over in days as yet more crises and instability hit Stormont. A major part of that instability is the disenchantment among nationalist workers. The refusal of the two PBP MLAs to recognise the base on which they were elected and to declare unremitting hostility to the institution they sit in is an obstacle to the task of building on that resistance.


From International Viewpoint


India: On the rape and murder of Dalit woman in Kerala -- Statement by Pinjratod


India: On the rape and murder of Dalit woman in Kerala

by Pinjratod

Jisha’s rape and murder reaffirms how the bodies of Dalit women become sites for the most brutal forms of exercise of caste oppression accentuated by patriarchal power, where the control of and violence on women’s bodies become powerful mechanisms for upholding a Brahminical patriarchal order.

On 28th April’16, Rajeshwari a daily wage labourer and a single parent, returned home to her one-room house at Kuruppampady village in Kerela at night, to find the body of her younger daughter, raped, mutilated and murdered. Her daughter, who was a Dalit student, had to discontinue her BA degree within a year due to financial constrains. However, she was not one to give up and had been enrolled as an LLB student of Ernakulum Law College since 2010. “She wants to fight for people like us, poor people, those who have been discriminated against,” says Rajeswari as she lies in the hospital, in shock and trauma, unable to accept her daughter’s sudden and tragic demise. Rajeshwari had rushed to the nearby police station on that fatal night, where not surprisingly, the police refused to file her case, “wait for the postmortem” they claimed, ensuring that any ‘crucial evidence’ would essentially be lost in the meantime. Five long days passed since the murder. There were no investigations, there were no arrests, there were no marches or media outrage. There was only a deafening silence and a disturbing apathy. This was not the first time Rajeswari had gone to the police station. She had lived in her one room state-allocated house for 40 years, and during that long period, all she and her family had faced was hostility and severe caste discrimination from their neighbours: their water pipes were destroyed and the women-only family was forced to draw water from a nearby canal, they were not allowed to build toilet in their house, stones were regularly pelted at their small home, they had received threats of murder and the two daughters were subject to constant sexual harassment from neighbourhood men. The police refused any action in all cases, despite repeated complaints.

After five days of silence, news of the rape and murder started to slowly appear in social media due to the efforts of Dalit Bahujan voices, forcing the mainstream media to respond. The mainstream media reports have been accompanied by sickening, voyeuristic and vivid descriptions of the ‘brutality’ of the rape, characteristic of the way in which Dalit bodies are denied respect and dignity even in death. “Kerala’s Nirbhaya”, screamed the media, while the Malayali savarna middle class unable to imagine such ‘barbarity’ to their kind, claimed (in typical display of their xenophobia), that the perpetrators “must be migrant workers”.

The ‘merit’ of the Dalit student had to be interrogated. ‘She had three papers left to clear”, the savarna media hinted slyly, as suspicions on her ‘character’ were raised “why did she not scream? why she did she not call out for help? how could this have happened inside her own house?”. The name and photograph of the ‘victim’ was flashed without consent across media in violation of the law.

The media insensitivity that characterises this problematic act of naming, has been subsequently challenged by the emerging movement demanding Justice for Jisha by fighting against the very shaming in anticipation of which the law forbids the name of a sexual violence ‘victim’ from being revealed. However, in a context of upcoming elections in Kerela, the rape and murder of a Dalit woman has now become an ‘agenda’ for the predatory parties to capitalise on, to appropriate. The matter ‘shook’ the Rajya Sabha yesterday, where PJ Kurein, one of the primary accused in the Suryanelli rape case in Kerela, had the audacity to express his condemnation of this ‘heinous’ and ‘shameful’ crime.

The violence that was inflicted on the body of Jisha and what has unfolded thereafter, is not an ‘exception or an ‘aberration’ in Kerela’s ‘progressive’ society whose impressive HDI (Human Development Index) credentials we are constantly reminded of. In fact, it is characteristic of the tremendous everyday violence and oppression that is inherent to that state, and this country where Dalit lives are crushed, humiliated, maimed, killed, murdered and destroyed everyday with impunity.

Jisha’s rape and murder, like Delta Meghwal’s death, reaffirms how the bodies of Dalit women become sites for the most brutal forms of exercise of caste oppression accentuated by patriarchal power, where the control of and violence on women’s bodies become powerful mechanisms for upholding a Brahminical patriarchal order. Patriarchal and caste oppression do not operate in isolation, but inherently reinforce each other. When located in the context/history of persistent castiest and patriarchal violence faced by Rajeshwari’s family and the structural negligence of the police, the rape and murder of Jisha is not unimaginable or unanticipated, and almost constitutes the chronicles of a rape foretold. As some form of police investigation of this crime finally begins, we are met with the news of the rape of a 19yr old Dalit nursing student by three men in an auto in the coastal town of Varkala in Kerela. Our rage and anger is hence not to be limited to the ‘atrocity’ of the ‘gruesome’ nature of Jisha’s murder, but has to lead to a persistent struggle towards a structural annihilation of this Brahminical society that violently denies through innumerable everyday acts and practices, a life of dignity and equality to Dalits.

Rajeswari’s all-women household was a ‘dangerous’ entity, a collective of women struggling and surviving and a Dalit working class woman seeking education and entry into a profession dominated by savarna men, was a direct threat to a Brahminical and patriarchal society. The ‘outside’ streets and the neighbourhood never belonged to Rajeswari, Jisha and Deepa. But even their ‘home’ that defied the dictates of a patriarchal world which mandates male control over families, was not to have any illusion of ‘safety’. It was to be always vulnerable to stones, to abuse, to ostracisation and to attack by this disgusting casteist society, that all savarnas (including women) are complicit in perpetuating. This resistance, this deviation by Dalit women was an ‘audacity’ that was not to tolerated, it had to silenced, it had to be dismantled.


Pinjratod is an autonomous collective effort to ensure secure, affordable and not gender-discriminatory accommodation for women students across Delhi.

Disposession and Peasant Resistance in Pakistan

From British India to Pakistan: the journey of dispossessions in Okara and the resistance of the tenants of the Military Farm

Hussain Bux Mallah

The resistance of the tenants of Okara Military Farm villages to changes in their contract and to threats of eviction is cause-celebre, particularly for left-leaning activists and intellectuals. This is as it ought to be. There have been various attempts by the authorities to evict residents since the time of General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. The issue flared up again under General Musharraf in 2003, and after a hiatus it came to the headlines once more in April 2016 when it was reported that security forces positioned a tank in addition to the usual tear gas rounds to disperse people who were celebrating the International Peasant’s Day. A 17-year-old boy died and many protestors were injured and arrested [1]. The government stated its determination to charge the protestors under the National Counter Terrorism Act of 2013.

“Maalki ya Maut” - ownership or death – is the defiant slogan raised by the Anjuman-e-Muzaraeen Pakistan (AMP) or the association of peasants of Pakistan, since 1989. It has inspired many activists and scholars, and for good reason. At a time when active class struggle is being overshadowed by other forms of mobilization, the movement of Okara peasants stands out as an example of political resistance to what might be the largest corporate landowner in the country.

But the story of dispossession in Okara is deeper – and perhaps darker than the current generation of activists and scholars might admit. I have had occasion to visit the district and conduct fieldwork there since 2010 and heard parts of a story of dispossession that goes back at least a century and a half.

Hindu villages such as Wan Radha Ram and the other indigenous communities, also known as Jhanglees were evicted by the British Government. The government of the time was keen to develop the eastern rain-fed pasture lands of Okara through a network of irrigation canals. Engineer Ganga Ram was engaged to design the Dhuniwala Feeder to irrigate 17,000 acres of land through a lease document (for a period of 1913 to 1933) for garrison purposes.

Although the partition of Punjab between India and Pakistan happened in August 1947, violence which had started several months earlier caused mass evictions from both sides. Hindus and Sikhs of Okara were dispossessed at this time. Thereafter, in preparation of the 1965 war with India, the Pakistan Army initiated construction of cantonments in various districts of the country including Okara. The army occupied the garrison and developed infrastructure over 5,000 acres of land and allotted the remaining 12,500 acres on a patta system, also known as a one year lease system to residents of various Chakooks - canal colony villages. Through the Okara Military Farms, the Pakistan Army smoothly continued its agricultural businesses with the cooperation of settlers in the canal colony villages until 1969. However, things changed when the ill-fated Muslims and Christians of Chak 17/4-L first experienced eviction during Bhutto’s inaugural election campaign. Bhutto’s election manifesto was pro-hisa batai system (a sharecropping system according to the Tenancy Act of 1887) rather than the lease on annual contract patta system. Bhutto’s land and tenancy reform policies and slogans fostered a strong sense of resistance against the patta system and led to the emergence of tenants’ movements under the slogan of “jhara wavay, oohi khaway” (loosely translated as the one who grows has the right to consume), in various parts of Punjab particularly in Khanewal and Sahiwal. Despite peasants’ resistance residents of 11, 14, 16, 17 and 18 Chakooks were displaced from their sakni or residential and agricultural land under tenancy up to 2010.

Yasin belonged to a cultivator caste group and was only 8 years old when his village in Chak- 17/4-L was demolished with heavy machinery in the presence of a military brigade. His father could not survive the shock and died. The family, who also held one murabba(approximately 25 acres) of agricultural land in the Military Agriculture Farm, had to take refuge in another Chak and survived by doing casual labour for many years. A female respondent also shared her family’s experience of dispossession when her father was a tenant on the patta arrangement and their land was under the control of Army’s General Head Quarters (GHQ). According to the revenue and tenancy rules, the GHQ was obligated to fulfill all of the government’s revenue tax requirements and had the responsibility of providing water, seeds and fertilizers to the tenants. However, there was a minimal role of the numbardar (a person who collects revenue and taxes on behalf of government) in these military farm lands. “We were dislocated from our residential land as well the murabba in the Military Farm” she reports. The respondent also added that in the past ten years the GHQ had stopped providing various inputs to the tenants and the Muzaraeen, who are the occupants of Military Farm lands, also revolted and stopped paying output shares to the military.

Due to mass resistance the military forces could not evict people of 21/4-L Chak’s from their residential land, although they were forced to write off their agricultural lands. The tenants of Chak 14/4-L, who had lost both their agricultural and residential lands, were later allotted residential lands by the government as it was easy for the government of the time to discriminate on basis of murabba holders and non-murabba holders or non-cultivator castes in residential plot allotments.

The government did this by dividing the residents of 14/4-L into two categories; one of those who were murabba holders or tenants and second of those families who were non-murabba holders, who came to be known as the Faltus. Murabba holder families were awarded 7 marla plots in Gamber 4-L distributary’s embankment and Faltus were allotted 3 marla plots on an evacuee property of a ruined brick kiln (previously owned by Hindu and Sikh families) inside the Chak 10/4-L. The government of the time named murabba holders’ settlement as Muhammad Nagar and the Faltus’ settlement was titled Saabreen-e-Hijaz, though it later came to be known as Batha Abadi. The Pakistan Army also owned a dairy farm inside Chak 10/L-4 and had initially resisted the allotment but had to back down after uproar from the displaced families. Ironically, the murabba holder residents of Chak 10/L-4, while resisting the Pakistan Army, were at the same time embroiled in persecution of the Faltu residents of Batha Abadi.

Batha Abadi, the settlement of the dispossessed Faltus, was allotted 8 acres of land out of which 4 acres were allotted for construction of homes and the rest were spared for communal or shamlat use such as funerals, weddings and rearing animals etc. Amurabba holder resident of Chak 10/4-L, who was leading the confrontation against the Pakistan Army, had occupied 2 out of the 4 acres spared for communal use. Another Christian Muzara, also occupant of the Military Farm lands, had occupied one acre of land in Batha Abadi which was being used as a chappar or a drain pond.

Violence and dispossession has been ongoing in Okara for over 150 years with every new generation of dispossession classifying its own victims - from the Jhanglees of the mid-19th century to the Faltus of the early 21st century. Through these left-leaning activists and mainstream political parties alike have paid the most attention to the murabba holders among all the classes of victims. The Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1900 which formally divides the society into ’cultivators’ and ’non-cultivators’ is still intact and it allows the Punjab Government to evacuate non-cultivator caste groups and agricultural labour from their allotments. Within this context the murabba holders of Okara Military Farm peasants movement are relatively privileged. Their demand for tenancy security leading to ownership rights, while valid in itself, excludes the non-cultivator castes and agricultural labourers who have no right of tenancy to start with. Are the Jhanglees and Faltus unwitting pawns in hands of the government, the political activists and themurabba holders?



* “Okara Dispossessions: From Jhanglees to Murabba holders to Faltus”. Collective. Thursday, 2 June 2016:






Murzban Jal


We would therefore propose to replace the state everywhere by Gemeinwesen, a good old German word which can very well convey the meaning of the French word commune. Frederick Engels.


Inequality is the soul of Hinduism. The morality of Hinduism is only social. It is unmoral and inhuman to say the least. What is unmoral and inhuman easily becomes immoral, inhuman and infamous. B.R. Ambedkar.


Understanding Fascism in India


It must be clear by now, after almost two years in power of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political organ of the extreme rightist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that the contemporary government in power is fascist through and through. The attack on the JNU by the BJP is just the starting moment of the fascist attack on the intellectual legacy in democratic India. What needs being done now is to understand the Indian variant of fascism as also understanding that a blanket definition of fascism as the “most reactionary dictatorship of finance capitalism”—the definition that was the basis of the Comintern understanding of fascism—would be abstracted from concrete conditions. By and large, this form of economist definition of fascism lacked the cultural and ideological study of fascism. It lacks the understanding that fascism, though being driven by the crisis of capitalism, was and is essential plebian in character in its cultural and ideological character. It was earlier Trotsky who mentioned this plebian character of fascism and now it is Jairus Banaji who repeatedly raises this issue of the mass character of fascism, an argument that he picks up from Arthur Rosenberg’s Fascism as a Mass Movement. The inability to understand this plebian mass character would unwittingly strengthen fascism even further.


What needs being done in the study of fascism is to look at its (1) economic roots, especially in understanding the formation of the Industrial Reserve Army in the crisis of global capital accumulation, (2) the political crisis of legitimacy of liberal democracy, and (3) the cultural and ideological expressions of people against liberal democracy where the ideology and politics of racism and militaristic nationalism become dominant. Here it is important to understand that liberal democracy has two opponents: the communists and the fascists. Both want open rebellion against the liberal order, the only thing is that the rebellion that fascism advocates is totally inauthentic. In fact this rebellion against liberalism is a pseudo-rebellion, a rebellion that is totally in support of capitalism and imperialism. Yet there is the character of the Cultural Revolution that seems to be missing from mainstream left parties who have either being looking at merely the political aberrations of fascism.


What mainstream left in India also did was that it totally missed the deep revolutions that Jyotiba Phule and B.R. Ambedkar invoked. What both these radical thinkers said was that within the dominant form of thinking that we call the “Hindu order”, the question of democracy and critical thinking would be totally missing. And since the contemporary government intends to create a Hindu state and demolish secularism and democracy, it is necessary to attack this fiction-phantasmagoria called “Hinduism” in order to preserve secularism and democracy. We are claiming that the very word “Hinduism” is a fiction because it is not indigenous to Indian history and society, but a term of West Asian origin which became the dominant discourse of the ruling elites only after the failed 1857 Indian revolution. In the modern and contemporary sense, “Hinduism” is an invention of colonialism. In this sense nothing called “Hinduism” had ever existed in the Indian subcontinent.


This essay is a political attack on not only the proponents of Hindutva, but also an attack on the liberal democrats. We thus begin with the question of religion, namely the question of Hinduism that Ambedkar had critiqued as the worst form of anti-humanism that could ever be found. We begin however with a question: “Why does one say that the “critique of religion is the prerequisite of all critiques” , and how does one concretize this critique in radical politics?” And since we have been told by the political right in India that the Indian state ought to be a “Hindu state”, we are concretely setting the agenda of revolutionary politics to understand the possible alternatives to not only the fascism of the Hindutva Parivar, but also the politics of liberal democracy that is itself nurturing this form of fascism. Our concern is democracy and by democracy we mean real democracy, not formal democracy that parliamentary democracy advocates. In this struggle of democracy we see how Hindutva becomes a symptom/fetish of an underlying anti-democratic social system. Whilst the symptom/fetish is a phantasmagorical mode of appearance of a concealed social structure (namely neo-liberal capitalism), it has also a life of its own. This is because this symptom/fetish called “political Hinduism” is similar to the value form that Marx outlines in Capital where the process of metamorphosis of commodities determined by the trio: alienation (implying the loss of the self)-reification (meaning a form of “thingfication” or the de-humanization of humanity)-fetishism (or the succumbing of humanity to this monstrous thing) rules the roost not only in market economies, but also in the ideological practices of post-colonial nation states. We say that in the production of commodities there is a loss of human and material form and the production of a dubious double where a type of a monstrous machine is produced that itself creates another double that Marx calls the “ghost” .


So just as we have two dubious doubles: the monstrous machine and the ghost in commodities, we have the same in the production of the commodity called “political Hinduism”. That this model of political Hinduism that V.D. Savarkar first outlined in his Essentials of Hindutva in the early 1920s parallels the renderings of Maulana Maududi (the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami) and Syed Qutub (the author of Milestones and the inspiration behind the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) ought to be noted. Both, whilst being messianic in the fascistic sense, are also anti-secular and anti-socialist. Whilst political Hinduism needs being critiqued, one also needs to say that this entire discourse called “Hinduism” is a fuzzy term. That the RSS as a self-professed extreme nationalist organization borrowed from the repertoire of Zoroastrian Iran and then from the cultural baggage of Abbasid Iran and Mughal India should be noted. And with this noting, one should also note that the RSS’s version of mythical nationalism does not have its own conceptual framework. Taking Ambedkar we say that Hinduism is essentially a right-wing fuzzy myth, since “Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes…A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavors to segregate itself and distinguish itself from other castes. ….Indeed the ideal Hindu must be like a rat living in his own hole refusing to have contact with others. There is an utter lack among the Hindus of what the sociologists call ‘consciousness of kind’. There is no Hindu consciousness of kind. In every Hindu the consciousness that exists is the consciousness of his caste. That is the reason why the Hindus cannot be considered to form a society or nation”.


One then needs to ask; “if Hinduism is a fuzzy right-wing myth, then why would one want to be identified as this fuzzy mythical character and try to create political Hinduism?” There are two basic explanations: one that takes us back to the 10th mandala of the Rg Veda that serves as the foundational myth of the caste system where caste implies class+race+neurosis+psychosis+schizophrenia. I have said this in The New Militants and Why We Are Not Hindus that caste is to be understood as “enclosed class” as also a type of gang and clique that bases its exploitative mechanism on a deeply entrenched hierarchical system where the upper caste elites are considered as “pure” and the working multitude said to be “unclean”. However besides this classical formulation of understanding caste there is also the understanding that caste is similar to a form of racism as also a form of a new psychological disorder which I call “neurosis-psychosis” that has transcended the earlier classical psychoanalytic formulation of the separation of neurosis and psychosis. From this psychoanalytic observation of caste and from Ambedkar’s observation that Hindus can in no way form a nation, we move to the late 19th and early 20th century observations on political Hinduism. See how absurd these formulations of political Hinduism are. Consider also their megalomaniac and narcissistic character.


Note three observations. The first is by Aurobindo, who claims that “nationalism is not a mere political programme. Nationalism is a religion, so Aurobindo continues, “that has come from God. If you are going to be a nationalist, if you are going to assent to this religion of nationalism, you must do it in the religious spirit. When it is said that India shall expand and extend itself, it is the Sanatan Dharma that shall expand and extend itself over the world (both emphases mine, M.J.)” , whilst the second is of that Keshab Chunder Sen who sees British colonialism as a meeting of the Brtis and Brahmans: “in the advent of the English nation in India we see a reunion of parted cousins, the descent of different families of the ancient Aryan race”. But now look at Vivekanand who links spirituality with world conquest: “This is the great ideal before us and everyone must be ready for it—the conquest of the whole world by India. We must go out, we must conquer the world through our spirituality and philosophy”. One should relate these observations with a distinctive fascist version of Sanatan Dharma: Hinduism, once, used to extend over what is now Afghanistan, over Java, over Cambodia. Powerful Hindu India could reconquer these lands and give them back the pride of their Indian civilization. She could make Greater India once more a cultural reality, and a political one too….She could teach the fallen Aryans of the West the meaning of their forgotten paganism; she could rebuild the cults of Nature, the cults of Youth and Strength, wherever they have been destroyed; she could achieve on a world-scale what Emperor Julian tried to do. And the victorious Hindus could erect a statue to Julian, somewhere in conquered Europe, on the border of the sea; a statue with an inscription, both in Sanskrit and in Greek: What thou hast dreamt, We have achieved.


Compare this with the political fascist understanding: It is worth bearing well in mind how these old nations solve their minorities’ problem. They do not take to undertake to recognize any separate elements in their polity. Emigrants have to get themselves naturally assimilated in the principal mass of population, the National race, by adopting its culture and language and sharing in its aspirations, by losing all consciousness of their separate existence, forgetting their separate origin. If they not do so, they live merely as outsiders, bound by all the codes and conventions of the Nation, at the sufferance of the nation and deserving no special protection, far less any privileges and rights. There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. That is the only sound view on the minorities’ problem. That is the only logical and correct solution. That alone keeps the Nation safe from the danger of a cancer developing into its body-politic of the creation of a state within the state. From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must hold to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu religion and lose their separate existence, to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights. What we see in all this renderings of nationalism is the nationalism of upper-caste elitism which develops as cultural megalomania with its obsession on spiritualism and power a form of nationalism that does not have anything to do with the toiling masses. But what we see in the last rendering is the complete fascistic version, where the regime of rights of people is completely erased.


State as Counterrevolutionary Tool


The fact that the RSS is able to impose its fascistic character of nationalism that they have ironically borrowed from European fascism, should not surprise us, since these phantasmagorical characteristics were born in 19th century’s idea of nationalism. That Indian nationalism had always had a Hindu characteristic controlled by the upper caste elites that subdued all forms of subalternism should be noted. Besides this idea that was borrowed lock stock and barrel from Europe’s idea of the nation state should also be noted. Nationalism always needs the state for its existence. In my book Why We Are Not Hindus I said that theories of the state, both classical and modern, stand on both rigorous and shaky grounds. It is necessary to understand this contradiction. This ironical situation is because the state is predicated on conflicting and warring classes and consequently represents the interests of only the dominant classes. I am saying this because of the revolt that has broken out in JNU could get trapped within the mechanisms of the state. It is necessary to go into theories of the state in order to look at the possibilities of real emancipation of the subaltern classes-castes in India.


Let us have a brief look. Two main motifs emerge from theories of the state, one that that the state stands for the public good and is the embodiment of morality. Aristotle’s Politics and Hegel’s Philosophy of Right are the best examples of this idea of the state. The exact opposite emerges from the philosophy of Marx, namely that that the state is nothing but the managing committee of the global bourgeoisie . For Marx, then the public good stands outside the realm of the state. If Hegel thought that the state was the embodiment of the moral good, for Marx it was the embodiment of the immoral evil. Thus for Marx one had to transcend the realm of the state for the possibilities of the realization of this moral good. Yet a sort of tragedy struck Marxism with Stalin’s counterrevolution against the Bolsheviks. What happened in Soviet Marxism was that Marxism was made to stand on its head, where the counterrevolution against Marxism spoke strangely in the name of Marx. One did not have merely a duplicate Marx, but an inverted Marx. And this inverted Marx would not only haunt the whole world, it would stalk it. India would be no exception.


It is important to note that fascism emerged in Italy, in 1922 in Germany in 1933 and in Iran in 1979 only on the basis of the crisis of liberal capitalism and the ashes of the failed communist revolutions. It seems that 1922, 1933 and 1979 would return this time to haunt India. This would be one great tragedy. But there is the tragedy outlined in the above paragraph—the tragedy of the Stalinist counterrevolution. If tragedy struck the Marxist movement for human emancipation where state capitalism under the stewardship of Stalinism would turn out to be its goal; modern India led by the neo-liberals was likewise struck by a new tragedy, the definite sign being the acceptance of the American led ideologies and economic policies of neo-liberal capitalism since the early 1990s. What this America led neo-liberalism did was attack not only the ideological foundations of social democracy. It would also attack the ideology of secularism, as if neo-liberalism would be able to construct a neo-conservative and anti-secular agenda for India. However this “post-socialist” age would give way not to the neo-liberal fantasy of making the whole world in the image of capitalism. Multiple contradictions would emerge where the Congress party that held all the contradictions of India in its own fold, would now burst in multiple contradictions.


The most dominant image emerging in this “post-Soviet” age would be the communal image of the Hindutva rightists. And with it the destruction of the historical Babri Mosque in 1992 by the right-wing extremists, followed by the seizure of political power in New Delhi by the BJP, an ideology emerged that did not merely differ from that of Constitutional Democracy, but sought to destroy this very Democracy. What they did was launched a war of attrition on Indian Constitutional Democracy, where they dug trenches in Indian democracy and put their ideological paratroopers in these political trenches. The Indian state, so we learnt from the early 1990s, had to be a “Hindu state” governed by the ideology of “Hindutva”, where Indian ideology was no longer determined by the idea of citizenship, but by the idea of nationalist biological descent. Consequently racist ideology supplemented democratic ideology. The Indian heritage and Indian ideology soon mimicked the ideologies of Nazi Germany and Zionist Israel. Yet as we learn from Perry Anderson’s The Indian Ideology that this fantasy of the “Hindu state” grew in the cranium of the Indian national movement itself, with Gandhi being a proponent of this fantasy. What we learn thus is that liberal democracy did not exclude the right-wing idea of this “Hindu state”.


So how does one refigure the political philosophies of human emancipation, especially when liberal democracy was firstly at least since the past one and a half years year promoting Narendra Modi (the genocideical overlord of Gujarat who oversaw the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom) as the most successful Prime Minister of India? And sadly when liberal democracy did achieve its aims of putting the Gujarat satrap as the Prime Minister in May 2014, the brutality, incompetence and incompetence of liberalism comes to the fore. And with the new government that is actively promoting its fascist Hindutva agenda, and both the liberals and the Stalinists totally bewildered by the triumph of fascism, the philosophy of emancipation that Marx first drew in his On the Jewish Question (where humanity would be freed from the brutality of semi-feudalism, capitalism and the state) would gain greater importance. One here recalls Walter Benjamin’s idea that “every rise of fascism bears witness to a failed revolution”, an idea that is recently echoed by Slavoj Žižek.


One possible answer to this question of human emancipation and the critique of not only the fascist project of Hindutva, but also the critique of Hinduism as such, comes from the radical left and dalit movement which answer to the phantasmagoric idea of the “Hindu state”, by claiming that one needs to deconstruct the very idea of Indian ideology as “Hindu ideology”. One knows that besides the works of Jyotiba Phule, Periyar and B.R. Ambedkar who had all launched wars of position against this phantasmagorical “Hindu” ideology (we are keeping the word Hindu in phenomenological brackets, because this very term needs to be seen with suspicion—it is not a part of indigenous subaltern Indian tradition, but an Orientalist invention created by the colonial authorities with the help of the Sanskristized elites and pundits in the service of the British empire), it were the great Indian historians starting with D.D. Kosambi, R.S. Sharma and Romila Thapar who questioned this “Hinduism” itself, claiming that Hinduism was basically a class-caste ideology determined by the ruling elites and in no way could be reduced to the culture of the popular masses. It is by putting this “Hinduism” under the hermeneutics of suspicion that the radical democratic movement in India would be able to redefine itself.


One recalls Kancha Ilaiah here: who says: “Now in your own interest and in the interest of this great country you must learn to listen and to read what we say. A people who refuse to listen to new questions and learn new answers will perish and not prosper”. And with the RSS in charge of political power the question of the political elites listening to people is totally out of question. The death of Rohith Vemula and the charges of sedition against Kanniah Kumar are only two examples that the right-wing elites refuse to listen to new voices—the voices of reason which speaks of human emancipation. But how would this cultural movement for human emancipation relate itself with the Marxist question of socialism, especially how human emancipation defined as class-caste-gender emancipation relates itself with the classical Marxist question of the dictatorship of the proletariat? Would this idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat be an aberration from the democratic ideals or should one read this idea as the realization of direct democracy?


Probably due to lack of study of historical materialist dialectics, the Marxist theory of the state, especially the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat has not been sufficiently understood. And also because the Stalinist counterrevolution pretended to be a form of an authentic Marxism, and also because the counterrevolutionary Soviet state since 1928 that was built on the political economy of state capitalism and the political idea of the Oriental despot, the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and following it the Marxist theory of state and radical democracy was totally left totally opaque and misunderstood. It was forgotten that for Marx, there is no state in communism (even in the first stage of communism, the so-called lower stage as he called it in his Critique of the Gotha Programme). The state, for Marx has to be smashed , this smashing that is not replaced with another form of state, but what one calls the “anti-state”. What then is this anti-state and how does real democracy appear on the scene of real history? Whilst it has been recognized that Marx insisted on a political logic of historicism and humanism where it was always the masses that make history and no substitute could replace the working masses, it seems that post-Marx-Marxism had blundered where the finger of suspicion went to Lenin, who seemingly replaced Marx’s humanism with a brutal form of socialist dictatorship. This of course is incorrect. Consider Lenin’s political logic where revolutionary seizure of power Is said to be based on the initiative of the “people from below” , where “the source of power is not a law enacted by parliament”, but on the “direct rule of the people” . The Republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies is contrasted to the rule of the police, army and the bureaucracy . Lenin thus recognizes two distinct forms of power: the bourgeois “centralized power” and the “direct initiative of the people from below” . What Engels called the Gemeinwesen (seen in the above quote) is literally the rule of what we know now as the rule of the “commons”, where the abolishment of private property and the state with the abolishment of commodity production is the sine qua non of revolutionary politics.


One will have to move from this theoretical understanding of the state to more mundane concerns to further the cause of democracy. Now take the case of the recent death of a not so recent fascist—the infamous Bal Thackery, the founder of the fascist Shiv Sena—where it was not so much that the Indian fascist who wailed and moaned, but the Indian liberal who said that this recently dead fascist was a “very liberal and tolerant man”. There has to be something extremely wrong with this “Indian Civilization” (that people from William Jones to Vivekananda and from Bankim Chandra to Gandhi boasted of), if fascism is said to become tolerant. We once knew of the barbaric fascist who created Auschwitz. Now we have heard of the liberals who moaned the death of the fascist, Bal Thackeray. Because of the blurring of the distinctions between liberalism and fascism, and also because the caste question could not be articulated, in fact actively suppressed by people like Gandhi who insisted on the so-call glories of the apartheid caste system, one recalls Slavoj Žižek’s observation of Gandhi as a “social fascist”.


One needs to involve a critique of Indian liberalism that has time and again compromised with their fascist cousins. We claim here that since the deep seated Cultural Revolution against organized religions and the established class-caste system could not be created in a form where it gripped the masses, the old caste system albeit in a new mode of appearance, marched into the little scene of Indian history. The RSS is the final realization of the resurrection of the old caste system with the imaginary warrior-priests as the New Rulers. Hindutva and Liberal Democracy One begins with a sort of confession. For in saying that one “can never be a Hinduvawadi”, one could be said to be implying that a type of confusion reigns where the borders of the descriptive, explanatory and the normative are set up. For in claiming that one “can never be a Hinduvawadi”, one also means that “one cannot be a Hindu”. One thus needs to new identities to find the soul of the Indian revolution. After all, we well know that there can be no Hinduism without caste, and however much one tries to purge caste from Hinduism, caste as the eternal insane neurotic returns once again. Hinduism is based of caste and caste on extreme borders that separate one group from the other. But if borders are the essence of all class societies, they are the Essence (with a capital “E”) of Indian caste society. I would repeatedly insist that borders, in fact what Etienne Balibar has called the “borders of cruelty”, become a type of a Hegelian Wesen (essence) that is so deeply ingrained in Indian society that to imagine a casteless, classless and democratic society seems to be improbable. It is our concern to turn this improbable into the probable and to link the Marxist philosophy of the dictatorship of the proletariat with the very important idea of annihilation of caste.


Whilst the RSS version of politics is the most brazen version of caste-class politics, it must be noted that liberal democracy did nothing to deal with the caste question. Despite these deep rooted borders whereby the fascist have dug deeper trenches into the political life-world with the political signboard that reads “Hindutva”, we insist that we say: “we can never be Hinduvawadis”. We do not say: “why we ought not to be Hindutvawadis”. We do not intend to insert a Kantian norm of the metaphysical “ought” onto reality. On the contrary one is thus trying to stretch the possibilities of Marxist science of historical materialism into the social and political life-world on modern India where the Indian subaltern thinkers, especially Jyotiba Phule and B.R. Ambedkar form the basis of our theory of radical democracy. Unlike the form of historical materialism sanctified by the Stalinist counterrevolution and which worked in a bland form of metaphysical positivism, our understanding of historical materialism is to re-think it as a “Revolution with a Revolution”. What needs to be told is that because of the dominant strand of the left in India, because of its worship of the parliament, not to forget suffering from Stalinist cretinism, got totally alienated from the masses and wanted a “Revolution without a Revolution”—and not a “Revolution with a Revolution”. One knows that this term of Robespierre (“Revolution with a Revolution”) is recalled presently by Slavoj Žižek. One also knows that it evokes a certain form of radicalism where Lenin and Gramsci’s philosophy of praxis are reworked in the context of the understanding of social formations in India, especially in the context of the caste question. Not only will the caste question be part of our discourse, but also the critique of the Indian nation state that was built on the inherent communal ideas of a re-worked neo-Hinduism. It must be noted that by Hinduism and Hindutva, we imply the very concrete context that Ambedkar worked in. Whilst our understanding is built on rigorous forms of Revolutionary Marxism we will also be involving what we call a “Marxist-Ambedkarite” understanding of social formation and the role of the Indian liberal state. In this sense we are re-visiting the sites of radical praxis—of a re-invention of a radical left in the age of neo-liberalism. Again in more than one sense we are re-visiting the sites of extremely serious social sciences, a seriousness where the voice of radical subalternism of what I call “Marxist-Ambedkarism” is heard. This form of “Marxist-Ambedkarism” firstly relates Indian society in terms of caste-class and then brings in the Leninist idea of learning insurrection as art. Unlike the established left—led by the CPI (M)—in India that has by and large ignored the caste question (or simply has not been able to understand it largely because it could not understand Marx’s idea of multilinear history where caste based on the theory of the Asiatic mode of production was Marx’s main idea of Indian history) and also unlike the established left that has operated at the level of the state, forgetting Marx’s dictum on the smashing of the state, we take this idea of multilinear history with caste-class as its basis as also take Marx’s anti-state understanding of radical politics.


This brings us to the first of our propositions: there can be no real revolution without a Cultural Revolution where the old anti-humanist morality determined by the class-caste system is transcended. In a very Ambedkarite sense it also means that this needs a transcendence of not only the caste system with its absolutely outdated sense of morals, but needs a transcendence of what one calls “Hinduism” itself. When we are using the terms “Hindus” and “Hinduism”, we are using it in the Ambedkarite dialectical perspective. It is here that we need to say that Hinduism, as we know it since the last century, has two main motifs: (1) one that originated in Brahmanical society, but whose imagination largely developed from a type of romantic idealism that began possible with William Jones and perfected by Max Müller, a motif that culminated in Gandhi and Nehru, and (2) the right-wing sense that began with Bankim Chandra which culminated in the discourses of Hindutva. ‘Hinduism’ as we know it today is a kitsch of these two types of discourses: the romantic and the fascist. What needs to be highlighted is that the Brahmanical base will remain as the core of both these versions.


Origins are always said to be problematic as Ambedkar notes in his Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development. As he says, “the question of origin is always an annoying question and the study of caste it is sadly neglected; some have connived at it, while others have dodged it”. Yet the origins of Hinduism lie in the 10th mandala of the Rg Veda where a certain form, not only class and race based stratification, but also a form of schizophrenia was written on its banners. And since we have been told, more than once by the established order of things, that “we”, the “we” that comprises the Indian nation state is basically the “we-ness” of Hinduism, the “we-nes” that is said to lie as the metaphysical basis of so-called “Indian civilization” we turn once more to the seriousness of both social sciences as well as to the site of radical praxis that seeks to overthrow this “we-ness” of classes-castes along with its inherent racism and schizophrenia. If the Indian collective is said to be a “Hindu collective”, then it is truly a false collective, a collective that refuses to think. Consider the foundational myth of both caste stratification as well as Hinduism where the Brahmans are said to be the mouth whilst the other social groups are said to be the arms, things, feet and other unmentioned parts. The foundational myth does not talk of the brain or the heart. It thus does not (and cannot) talk of thinking and feeling. Take this case and relate it with Ambedkar’s radical thesis of a Cultural Revolution not only against the social structures of caste stratification, but also against the system called “Hinduism” that protects and nurtures not only this form of stratification, but all forms of stratification and all forms of regressive thinking. The point therefore is to study the false sense of the “Hindu collective” that makes impossible the construction of an “Indian collective”, a true collective where the unity of the popular classes is possible. It is also a critique of this false sense of Indian liberalism, especially on the parliamentary system that protects and nurtures this false collective. In this sense we agree with Žižek: Fidelity to the democratic consensus means the acceptance of the present liberal-parliamentary consensus, which precludes any serious questioning of how this liberal-democratic order is complicit in the phenomena it officially condemns and, of course, any serious attempt to imagine a society whose socio-political order would be different. We also agree with Ambedkar who had said that There is a great need of someone with sufficient courage to tell Indians: ‘Beware of parliamentary democracy; it is not the best product as it appears to be.’


What needs to be done is firstly tell people that Ambedkar as being represented as a liberal is completely wrong. Ambedkar was a revolutionary through and through. What we need now to do is to imagine the world whose socio-political order would be different from both the old colonial order as well as different from the liberal one. One thus needs to imagine the re-politicization of the world by what I have called after Antonio Negri and Marco Revelli as the “New Militants”. In this space of the New Militants that the following questions emerge: “Who then are these New Militants and what do they do? What is their relation with Marx’s proletariat and Ambedkar’s annihilators of caste? How does this proletariat-multitude become the New Militants? What do they do with the metaphysics of Indian civilization and how do they create the New Physics of the “commons”—a radical New Space—which dissolves the old structures of caste stratification?” After the fascist attack on the JNU, it is imperative to create these New Spaces. We need to critique not only fascism but also liberalism and argue for a different form of radical left politics which operates neither in the spaces of civil society nor the state. Instead we need to argue for the struggle being carried out in the space of the “commons”, the “commons” where liberty, equality and fraternity (or “equa-liberty’ as Etienne Balibar calls it) unleashes its attack on the caste-class system, a system where classes are yet unfortunately and tragically “trapped in castes”. We are trapped. But freedom is right at the corner.


We stand at the corners of this New History. Communists as “Terrorists” and the “New Untouchables” But in creating these New Spaces as attempted by Rohith Vemula and Kanhaiya Kumar would lead to a total onslaught by the fascist state. It ought to be noted that even when India was ruled by the liberal Congress party, radical dalits were arrested on charges of terrorism. Now by media trial (on the JNU incident) the entire JNU academia is being declared as the “New Untouchables”. One can easily locate the “New Untouchables” i.e. the communists who are being painted as anti-nationalists. Whilst the question of the “untouchables” as the excluded other being sociologically placed in the site of casteism is best understood in Ambedkar’s radical theory, the philosophical critique of exclusion is best understood in Marx’s theory of alienation. The question now is to understand how this process of exclusion-alienation works in demonizing radical dalits and communists. And since the elites have created a corporate managerial state run as a panoptic system and police state, the question of human emancipation becomes even more problematic. What therefore we once knew (made fashionable by contemporary academic sociology) as the discourses of exclusion is in actuality based in the very serious site of Marx’s theory of alienation. One knows that at least since 1844 with Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 this theory of alienation entered radical critical theory, despite the structuralist critic of this theory as exemplified by the works of Louis Althusser. This very strange forgetfulness of Marx’s theory of alienation has blunted the radical politics of Revolutionary Marxism which forgot Marx’s historicism and humanism for a bland theory (one should say theory converted to theology) of historical evolutionarism and parliamentary passivism. One knows that Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, Gramsci and Lukács had critiqued this form of passivity within the left movement. Locating the question of the politics of exclusion and the political state in the field of alienation is now the urgent task that we need to perform.


In more than one sense one can locate the period after the 1857 war of independence against the British Raj as holding the manifold contradictions from which both the idea of the modern Indian state as well as the many types of reactionary nationalist ideologies developed, many of them having within them the political logic of exclusion. Now it is both well known and well documented that the primary ideological contradiction as spelt out by the contemporary neo-Hindu right is the spurious opposition between the imagined “good Hindu” vs. the even more imagined “bad Muslim”. The fact that this form of neo-fascist ideology has seeped so deep in contemporary India, with the help of imperialist Islamophobia, that one needs to rearticulate Marx’s theory of alienation for contemporary times. Turn to contemporary times and recall the previous Prime Minister—the liberal democrat Dr. Manmohan Singh—landing in England and literally telling the imperialist government of the Brits that their role as colonialists in India was not only progressive, but literally to be celebrated. Turn now to the discourses of the Neo-Adam Smiths in India (Chandra Bhan Prasad, one of the proponents of this fiction) which talk of “dalit capitalism”, a form of phantasmagorical version of capitalism that is pure fiction, a fiction devoid of the bloody history of primitive accumulation, devoid of what we know since David Harvey as “accumulation through dispossession”. Remember that for this form of neo-liberal sponsored fiction, we now do not talk of “victimhood”, we “don’t ask for doles, reservations, favours…(and) complains”. Instead of the struggle of the oppressed, a struggle that is between master and slave—rather lordship and bondage—(a struggle as in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind where lordship is bound to be overthrown), the oppressed are seen as Chandra Bhan Prasad claims, “risen on their own”. The struggle of the oppressed has “outlived its potential and power”, as the neo-liberal claims. That this neo-liberal narrative echoes the narrative that India is the subordinate partner of American imperialism should be stressed. That dalit capitalism is made up of small and medium enterprises based largely on family labour, and subservient to the needs of big capital also should not be forgotten. What also should be noted is that proponents of dalit capitalism that they are recreating the caste system fro neo-liberal capitalism—dalit capitalists will only produce spare parts for the Brahmanical-Bania capitalists.


 And since this neo-liberal narrative blames Marx for not understanding that capitalism does sweep pre-capitalist societies with brutal force, it must be stated that the neo-liberals have not even bothered to read Marx, forget able to understand him. Consider the dialectical and critical reading of history by Marx and Engels: The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part. The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchcal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between human and human than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation. The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers. The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades. The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. .


What needs to be stressed by the radical left is that neo-liberalism forgets history totally. What needs also being told is that Ambedkar was a socialist for whom the workers have two enemies—Brahmanism and capitalism , and that Ambedkar was in no way a support of capitalism of any sort What also needs being told over and over again that the politics of the neo-liberals who imagine that dalits will be emancipated by capitalism is vulgar to the extreme. When Chandra Bhan Prasad, the advocate for capitalism as the savior of dalits, says: “Montek (i.e. Montek Singh Ahluwalia) is a friend of Adam Smith and Adam Smith is an enemy of Manu, so therefore, Montek is our friend” , and one must shift one’s ideal from Mao to Obama, then one needs to state that if in any possible way the Indian neo-liberal wants to imitate the history of American capitalism and imperialism. One knows that capitalism is intrinsically bound to wars and that the crisis of capitalism led to the two imperialist World Wars. In this sense one needs to ask if these neo-liberals want wars. One also wants to know what Prasad did when the 2006 Kharlanji massacre happened and when dalit activists are being arrested as terrorists. The fact that Rohith Vemula’s murder by the Indian fascists is also part of branding radical dalit activists as terrorists and anti-nationalists is something to be noted. Fascism allows no dissent. It attacks dalits who protest and then claims that an apartheid version of capitalism needs to be created—i.e. a form of capitalism that is separated from mainstream capitalism. “Dalit capitalism” also implies that “Brahmanical-Bania capitalism” is going to keep dalits in separate enclaves (as dalit capitalists). Here one needs to stress the most, is that not only is Ambedkar’s original philosophy of annihilation of caste along with his socialist philosophy conveniently forgotten by the liberals and the neoconservatives for the lust of the fetishism of commodities, but also in this phantasmagorical narrative how the Indian neo-liberal state has called one section of the radical left the “single biggest threat to Indian internal security”. In other words one must try to understand how the radical left is being stamped by the Indian state as the “New Untouchables”. Kanniah Kumar is both the “terrorist” and the “New Untouchable”. The fact that Kanniah Kumar is also charged on charges of treason against the Indian nation and also charged with sedition is a fact to be remembered that the radical left is to be treated as the New Untouchables. The struggle against fascism sets in the new battlefront of the “New Untouchables”. And in this new battlefront one needs to de-think not only the rabid version of Hindutva nationalism, but also to de-think (to recall Perry Anderson once again) “Indian ideology”: from the 10th Mandala of the Rg Veda and Manu to Gandhi, Savarkar and the neo-liberals. For it is in the de-thinking, that the thinking of Phule and Ambedkar on the national question emerges. The Phule-Ambedkarite version of nationalism is distinct from the Gandhian-Nehruvian one, and most certainly from the fascist Hindutvawadi version of xenophobic nationalism. And it is in this process of de-thinking that the struggle between lordship and bondage, Brahmanism and dalit democracy, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat must be fought out. The “New Untouchables” refuse to bow down to the fascists or tail the liberals. The “New Untouchables” have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win!


[1] Karl Marx, ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction’, in Karl Marx. Early Writings, trans. Rodney Livingstone and Gregor Benton (London: Penguin, 1992), p. 243.

[2] Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Erster Band (Dietz Verlag: Berlin, 1981), p. 52.

[3] B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Annihilation of Caste’, in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 267.

[4] Quoted in Romila Thapar, Past and Prejudice (New Delhi: National Book Trust, 1975), p. 12.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., pp. 14-15.

[7] Savitri Devi, Warning to the Hindus (Calcutta: Hindu Mission, 1939), p. 142. Also see my ‘In Defence of Marxism’, in Critique, Vol. 40, No. 1, February 2012.

[8] M.S. Golwalkar, We or Our  Nation hood Defined . See Shamsul Islam, Golwalkar’s We or Our  Nation Defined. A Critique with the Full Text of the Book (New Delhi: Pharos Media, 2006), pp. 47-8

[9] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977) p. 37

[10] Kancha Ilaiah, Why I am not a Hindu. A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy (Calcutta: Samya, 2003), p. Xii

[11] Karl Marx, ‘To L. Kugelmann in Hanover, London, April, 17, 1871’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 671. See also Frederick Engels , ‘Introduction to Karl Marx’s Civil War in France’ and Karl Marx, ‘Civil War in France’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), pp. 258-9, 285, 289-290.

[12] V.I. Lenin, ‘The Dual Power’, in V.I Lenin. Selected Works in Three Volumes, Vol. 2 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), pp. 34-5..

[13] Ibid.

[14] V.I. Lenin, ‘The Task of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution’, in V.I Lenin. Selected Works in Three Volumes, Vol. 2 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1977), p. 31..

[15] V.I. Lenin, ‘The Dual Power’, in V.I Lenin. Selected Works in Three Volumes, Vol. 2,  p.34.

[16] See Frederick Engels, ‘Letter to Bebel, London, March 18-25, 1875’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 335.

[17] B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’, in The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar, ed. Valerian Rodrigues (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 253.

[18] Slavoj Žižek, ‘A Plea for Leninist Intolerance’, in Critical Inquiry, Winter, 2002.

[19] B.R. Ambedkar, ‘The Failures of Parliamentary Democracy’, in in Bhagwan Das (ed.), Thus Spoke Ambedkar. Vol. I.  A Stake in the Nation (New Delhi: Navayana Press, 2010), p. 46.

[20] See my The New Militants (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2014). See also Antonio Negri, Reflections on Empire, trans. Ed Emery (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), p. 29.

[21] Javeed Alam, Classes Trapped in Castes: Left’s Ongoing Predicament in India (Centre for Scientific Socialism: Nagarjuna Nagar, 2011).

[22] I have said this earlier that Ratan Tata and Adi Godrej are mentioned by the pioneers of “dalit capitalism”. See my Why We Are Not Hindus (Delhi: Aakar Books, 20150. See also ‘Capitalism is Changing Caste much faster than any Human Being. Dalits should look at Caste as a crusader against Caste’, in Indian Express, June 11, 2013.Chandra Bhan Prasad the ideological proponent of the fiction of “dalit capitalism” forgetsthat“dalit capitalism” is both a commodity needed by the big bourgeoisie, i.e. the Tatas and the Godrejs to produce the spare parts of these global magnates as well as a spectacle. Chandra Bhan Prasad also forgets that the Tatas and the Godrejs do not belong to the clan of the varna fetish worshipers, but belong to a faith that has been diametrically opposed to caste and Brahmanism for well over two and a half millennia. Thus whilst equality (albeit only formal equality) is possible for faiths other that Hinduism, it is impossible for Hinduism to accept any form of equality. Yet the proponents of “dalit capitalism” like the proponents of “Islamic capitalism” (many who are friends of Narendra Modi) forget that capitalism both sweeps the remnants of pre-capitalist societies, as well as builds these same primordial social formations. Therefore Rosa Luxemburg’s argument that there can be no neat picture of capitalism devoid of pre-capitalism and that capitalism needs pre-capitalist societies for the realization of surplus value is of great importance.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] One can see Why We Are Not Hindus for a more detailed version. Also see Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’, in Marx. Engels. Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), pp. 37-8. In Why We Are Not Hindus I have said that the new capitalists in India are nothing but the old Asiatic feudals in changed dress. With regards the translation: “chivalrous enthusiasm” (der ritterlichen Begeisterung) it needs to be stated that ritterlichen  could be "chivalrous", but this "chivalry" is intrinsically related to "knightly" that is inherent to Marx's idea of feudal Europe. In the Manifesto Marx and Engels say that that “chivalrous enthusiasm” (of the feudal era) which gives way to “egotistical calculation” (of capitalism) drowns in these “icy waters” of “egotistical calculation”. In India, this drowning does not take place. Rather we have the strange melting of feudal chivalory and egotistic calculation, in the melting of pre-capitalism and capitalism. That is swhy we sasy that what we see is that in India (like a large part of South Asia) this stupid chivalry and egoism both melt as one. Let it also be noted that this same phrase: der ritterlichen Begeisterung is also  related to Marx's idea of Don Quixote, the ideal idyllic-feudal. Marx here means that the revolutionary bourgeoisie "drowned" this "knightly inspiration" (my translation) or "chivalrous enthusiasm" (the standard translation) and "heavenly ecstasies" (die heilogen Schauer) of feudalism into "egoistical calculation" (egoistischen Berechnung). Also see the term: “philistine sentimentalism” (der spiessburgerlichen Wehmuth) which ought to be read as: "bourgeois (or philistine) melancholy". The translation: "sentimentalism" is then innocent, if not totally wrong.  The word "Wehmuth" indicates a form of woefulness or melancholy, which as I have said in Why We Are Not Hindus is something that Walter Benjamin brings in his works. The fact that Benjamin talks of this melancholy in the era of rising fascism ought not to be missed. What I mean here is that the RSS tries to create a sense of melancholy and then transforming this melancholy into mass hysteria.

[27] B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Capitalism, Labour and Brahmanism’, in Bhagwan Das (ed.), Thus Spoke Ambedkar. Vol. I.  A Stake in the Nation (New Delhi: Navayana Press, 2010), p. 50.


[28] See ‘Capitalism is Changing Caste much faster than any Human Being. Dalits should look at Caste as a crusader against Caste’, in Indian Express, June 11, 2013.

The Many Narratives That Spell Diversity


Ram Puniyani
Thursday, March 03,2016

In the current attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University one crucial aspect related to Indian mythology and its current interpretation came up to the fore. MHRD Minister Smriti Irani, while defending the actions of her government said that JNU is the den of anti national activities. Adding weight to her argument, she stated that the Dalit OBC groups in JNU are celebrating Mahishasura Martyrdom day and had issued a pamphlet, which is derogatory to the Goddess Durga. Goddess Durga worshipped by many as the slayer of Mahishasura. 

The issue of interpreting the slaying of Mahishasura; who is projected as demon in narratives has been in the air for quite some time. Before the present unraveling of the issue came up recently, another controversy about Goddess had come up few years ago. In Parliament the issue related to IGNOU book mentioning Goddess drinking alcohol had come up. In response to this Pranab Mukherjee who at that time was a Union Minister quoted shlokas from scripture Chandi Path which describes the incident as to how the goddess drank once, and then again and again, in the midst of battle, her eyes bloodshot—as red as the rays of the rising sun.’ 

In 2014 the special issue of Forward Magazine (October) which was carrying the Bahujan understanding of Mahishasura and Durga was seized by the police on the complaint from some sections that this issue will precipitate the hatred between Brahmans and OBC’s. This matter is in the court at the moment. The celebrations of Durga Puja in its present form began not too long ago. Durga worship is dated 260 years ago. Nawab Krishnadev of Calcutta; after the Battle of Plassey in 1757 organized the first Durga Puja. This was to honor Lord Clive. 

As such though there are communities which have been celebrating Mahishasura, its celebration as Martyrdom day came to the fore just a few years ago. From 2011 a group of students organized the celebration in JNU. Udit Raj, who has now joined BJP was also a speaker at one such program later on. Now one realizes that this celebration had been taking place amongst Adivasis communities in various places particularly in Bengal. Last year roughly over 300 such community festivals honoring Mahishasura had taken place. Many Bahujan scholars, including the one’s writing in Forward magazine issue have been arguing that the projection of slaying of Mahishasura is not in a good taste on two counts. One it celebrates death and the other it is the Brahmanical interpretation of the incident as Mahishasura is projected as the demon while he was a tribal king. 

The interpretation of mythology is mired in numerous issues. The presentation of events cannot be accurate as this is a pre-Historical period and rigorous and usual tools of history cannot be applied easily. As such the dominant narrative is that the Goddess killed the demon and so this day is celebrated as a victory of good over evil. This version mentions that Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh had to come together and put together all their might to create Goddess Durga endowed with supreme powers as the demon was not easy to defeat. This narrative also presents the demon king as half man half buffalo. 

Adding to what Irani read from the alleged leaflet in which Durga is said to be a sex worker who was commissioned to kill Mahishasur. She honeymooned with him for nine nights and then killed him in his sleep. One recalls that the city of Mysore is named after him. A friend brought to my notice about Tyeb Mehta’s painting from Kali series, showing the Goddess in deep embrace with Mahishasura, which sold for astronomical price. 

As such the first mention of Durga comes in Markandey Purana, written somewhere around 250 to 500 AD. The popular celebrations and perceptions are in tune with what Irani is asserting and not much is known about the communities celebrating the same day as Mahishasura day. This has come to light in the so called mainstream only very recently, more so with these celebrations in JNU and the Forward magazine issue. I may add here that the dominant discourse is always of dominant castes/classes. 

One must clarify that the very theory of race has been superseded by now and rather than arrival of Aryans or invasion of Aryans what seems more apt is the intermixing of communities over a period of time. One major dimension to Goddess Durga mythology is the gender aspect. Mrinal Pandey in her Scroll essay presents the issue as the one of assertion of women against the might of patriarchy. So the plate is full. There is race, there is caste and there is gender! In a society full of diversity where transition to egalitarian society is painfully slow, these multiple narratives should be part of the menu and compete with each other. 

Irani-BJP-RSS are opposed to the coming up of subaltern narratives as it a threat to their hegemonic project, project of upper caste/upper class hegemony over the society. For them neither prevalent pluralism nor interpretations of dominated castes can be tolerated, so the super charged attack by MHRD minister in Parliament and equating the alternate version as undesirable-anti national.

Internationalism from below against Fortress Europe


Wednesday 9 March 2016, by Fourth International

This statement was adopted unanimously at the meeting of the International Committee of the Fourth International in Amsterdam on 1st March 2016.

A million people have arrived at European borders in the past year, especially through the eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, fleeing hunger and bombs. This is the largest influx of refugees to Europe since World War II, and the largest number of displaced people and asylum seekers worldwide in decades. About half come from Syria, where five years of conflict have caused 250,000 deaths, five million refugees, and about half the population internally displaced. Others come from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other African and Asian countries. Within them, many women who suffer specific oppression and violences.

The political authorities and hegemonic media depict the current refugee crisis as a flood of people appearing suddenly out of nowhere. It’s as though it were a meteorological phenomenon without apparent cause, where the people seeking asylum are characterized as a threat or as victims, and to which there are only two possible responses: violent containment or emergency aid. In both cases, the refugees lose their status as subjects with rights, aspirations, and demands, becoming mere objects to be managed. This approach is not only reductionist, but also serves the interests of some of the political actors involved in the situation.

1. A global crisis of rights. Contrary to the official story, the actual migratory flows constitute not only or essentially a humanitarian crisis, but also and above all a crisis of rights and, therefore, a political crisis. A crisis with concrete causes and responsibilities, which is part of other, broader crises which make up a world and a global capitalist system in crisis. A crisis of rights that is also threefold, as 1) it involves the systematic violations of fundamental rights in countries of origin that motivate emigration; 2) it is a crisis in the international asylum system, lost in successive cuts and minimalist approaches; and 3) it is a crisis in the politics of migration in general, both in transit and in destination.

2. Local terror and imperialist intervention. Beyond the endogenous factors of the armed conflicts that motivate the displacements (in the Syrian case, the genocidal repression of the Assad regime and the totalitarianism of Daesh), the imperialist interventions and the military and economic interests of foreign governments, international institutions, and transnational corporations also have responsibility for the instability of these countries of origin. The plundering of resources and the geostrategic interests of the free trade agreements generate hunger, poverty, war, and exodus. In the case of the EU and its member states, the consequences of their interventions are now knocking at their door in the form of asylum seekers. Erdogan in Turkey and Assad in Syria utilize the refugees as currency and a form of pressure to negotiate their best interests with other powers. Meanwhile, the people are trapped by geopolitical disputes between local and regional elites.

3. The unbearable irresponsibility of Europe. The same European Union that displays nimbly ambitious plans to rescue the private banks, or to punish the governments that try to walk away from neoliberal austerity, responds to this challenge with empty declarations, institutional passivity, and a reinforcement of Fortress Europe, . Meanwhile, the European states pass along the problem as if it were a hot potato and legislate against migrants and refugees. Barely 400 people have been relocated in the different EU member states of the 160,000 that were committed to be placed by the end of 2017. Even if this latter figure is reached, it remains derisory to the real needs (one million arrivals in 2015 and a projected increase in 2016) and a stark contrast to the 4.5 million Syrians welcomed by Libya, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey, countries with lower populations and fewer economic resources than the EU.

4. Down with Fortress Europe and all forms of xenophobia. The European response is focused on building walls, increasing police repression, and practicing systematic deportations and internment in concentration camps for refugees, who are deprived of their most basic rights. These measures also generate huge profits for private companies which have found a new niche in border management. Cutting basic rights, increasing the stigmatization of migrants (sometimes using feminist discourses to this means), and the attempt to create a divide between “refugees with some rights” and “illegal immigrants” constitute a strategy of institutional xenophobia that legitimizes and encourages the growing expressions of racial hatred. Racism, nationalist identity, and closing the borders are old fantasies that are again today knocking at the doors of Europe. In their intent to halt the rise of the radical right and steal the monopoly of fear and hatred, parties and institutions are applying similar repressive policies for all of Europe. And as with so-called counter-terrorist policies, this refugee crisis serves as an excuse to attack rights and liberties for the whole working class.

5. Refugee or migrant, no human is illegal. The protection of law and international conventions that permit some migrants to solicit and obtain political asylum cannot be the principal argument wielded to defend their arrival and respect for their rights. The liberal standards of international norms provide limited causes for demanding shelter—excluding social, economic, or climate related reasons—at the same time they restrict the list of “officially recognized” political conflicts. The hunger, the misery, and the shortage of resources kill as many or more than the bombs. The economic wars of transnational capital displace millions of people each year. Economic and climate refugees ought to be considered categories eligible for asylum and, in any case, to migrate is a right independent of any political or economic reasons that motivate it.

6. An international response. There is no binding international convention nor shared responsibility that can substitute for the international duty of solidarity between peoples, and the loyalty between the popular classes toward those fleeing the consequences of terror, the changing climate, and the effects of global capitalism. The dignity and the life of humankind are worth more than any private benefit, than any electoral calculation, than any legislation.

For this reasons, the IC decides at its meeting of 27 February-2 March 2016, to undertake actions and mobilisations, supporting the struggle and self-organisation of refugees and migrants to break the borders, and a social mobilisation in solidarity with them, proposing the following political aims:

a) Denounce the causes of forced and massive displacement of populations by promoting mobilisations and street actions against imperialism and war;

b) Promote and participate in all demonstrations of solidarity and for the development of political alternatives against restrictive immigration policies;

c) Demand more funding for the reception of migrants instead of for repression, especially the militarisation of border controls;

d) Demand an end to all mechanisms for persecuting immigrants, in particular systems like SIS, CRATE, Rabit, FAST TRACK, ICONet, VIS, EURODAC and EUROSUR;

e) Demand the repeal of Dublin III and a review of the Geneva Convention to make it more suitable to the present times and circumstances;

f) Argue for the end of Frontex and the creation of a rescue and humanitarian aid force;

g) Argue for the opening of special corridors and the granting of special entry visas for refugees who are stuck in hotspots on the borders and in transit countries;

h) Advocate the creation of mechanisms of bilateral cooperation between member states to overcome the EU’s institutional blocks in the management of migratory flows;

i) Demand the regularisation of all the undocumented and repeal the Family Reunification Directive;

j) Integrate the fight against racism and fascism into all political actions;

k) Make the political, ideological and cultural struggle against the extreme right a central priority. Confront the rise of the extreme right through an agenda of counter-cultural hegemony against conservatism and through intercultural interventions that seek to retake the public space through combined initiatives and mobilisations with the victims of racism;

l) Fighting for voting rights of immigrants in all elections to make citizenship a reality, because democracy will only be complete when all men and women participate in it and are represented;

m) Fight for nationality to be based solely on place of birth, abolishing the right of blood as a means of acquiring nationality;

n) Demand an end to the deportations and the closure of detention centres in Europe and its periphery, in the name of respect for the human rights and human dignity of those who are detained only because of their immigration status;

o) Fight for repeal of the Directives on Return and Family Reunification, and for changes to the Labour and “race" directives;

p) Contribute through debate and critical thinking to challenge society in general, and academia in particular, to "decolonize" the production of knowledge and expertise, in particular through post-colonial “decolonial” studies, and above all, to further study and reflection on the semantic forms of racism, especially Roma-phobia, Afrophobia and Islamophobia;

q) Demand reforms to the school curricula and textbooks, so as to reflect and value cultural diversity, and promote interculturalism and its various contributions in school and academic subjects;

r) Finally, mobilise in favour of the teaching of the languages of origin, as one of the instruments, not only of linguistic and cultural preservation, but also as a tool for interaction and the socialisation of differences within school communities.

These mobilization must give a central role to the self organization of migrant and refugee people, to reclaim rights, and must be supported by a social mobilization in solidarity with them, as we have already seen in several European countries.

The borders are lowered for goods and capital while ever higher walls are built for people. Market fundamentalism and nationalist xenophobia are allied to reinforce a Fortress Europe full of borders, the true weapon of mass destruction of rights and breeding ground of racial hatred. But in front of her, resistance and solidarity with those below continues, demonstrating once again that only the people can save the people and that another Europe is possible.

Women of Dada and Their Times


— Penelope Rosemont

THIS YEAR IS the centennial of the birth of Dada, an anti-bourgeois movement in literature and art with profound Left-wing associations, especially in relation to anti-colonialism. Cabaret Voltaire was a nightclub in Zurich, Switzerland where the movement was launched by the poets Emmy Hennings and other artists. This reflection by Penelope Rosemont is a contribution to both our Women’s History feature and our ongoing centennial retrospective on World War I. — The Editors

YES, THERE WERE Dada women!

One hundred years of Dada this year. Cabaret Voltaire lasted less than six months from its opening, February 1916 in Zurich, Switzerland. Who would have guessed that its obscure beginning would herald a world-rocking negativity that was at the same time an ardent demand for renewal?

The group, idea, movement that it created, Dada, itself didn’t last very long but quickly mutated into surrealism and somehow made its radical presence known worldwide.

Zurich, at that time an island of peace, surrounded by ice, surrounded by war, attracted anarchists, revolutionaries, war resisters, bohemians who were fleeing the waves of patriotism and war fever rampant in Europe — it was even home for a time to Lenin. Albert Einstein lived there, taught there, was there in 1916. Bakunin had lived there earlier.

Emmy Hennings arrived with Hugo Ball in May 1915. They performed throughout Switzerland and then decided to establish a cabaret in Zurich named for Voltaire, to them “the anti-poet, the king of Jacanapes, the prince of the Superficial, anti-artist, preacher of the gate-keepers, the Papa Gigogne of newspaper editors...”
Plans were hatched with Marcel Slodky, Hans Arp and Max Oppenheimer. At Cabaret Voltaire’s first evening Tristan Tzara and the Janco brothers showed up and joined them.

Emmy, herself a singer, was the star performer. Ball played piano. Other acts included a balalaika band and a Dutch banjo group, dancers who performed to the mandolin, passionate poets and pianist Artur Rubenstein who played Ravel, Saint-Saens and Debussy.

Art by Picasso, Slodky, Janco, Arp and others hung on the walls, amid dance created by Sophie Tauber Arp, and puppet skits by Hennings. They were soon joined by Huelsenbeck playing drums and reading his poems.

Plays, poems, dances, songs, Negro chants, puppet theater, all were encouraged, it was open to all comers. Ball wrote that it was “a race against the audience’s expectations that called up all our powers of invention.... an indefinable intoxication.”

According to painter Christian Schad, in the spring of 1916 Dada gave birth to itself from this atmosphere of “spontaneous incongruities, formulated anti-meaning, ebullient collisions of opinions.” The name Dada itself was found by chance while searching for a title for their journal in a French dictionary.

When Dada or the cultural vanguard movements of this time are discussed, the women are most often completely left out. They might have been sensational performers as Emmy Hennings was, but nothing is left of their performances — or it could just be the male-centered cultural sieve that strains women out. Some of my favorite women Dadas Hannah Hock, Hennings, Sophie Tauber Arp, Beatrice Wood and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven participated and produced first class work, and yet....

Recovering Women Artists

Emmy Hennings was born in Flensburg on the coast of Germany, the daughter of a seaman. In 1906 she lost her child and was deserted by her husband; she took to the road, joining a traveling theater company. She had another child whom she left with her mother and continued as a vagabond performer appearing in road shows, light opera and nightclubs in Cologne, Budapest, Moscow and beyond.

A poet and writer, she wrote for Pan and Die Aktion, Left and anarchist journals. She and participated in the magazine Revolution which was founded by Hugo Ball and Hans Leybold. She was a star performer in Munich and met Hugo Ball while singing at Cafe Simplizissimus. Hugo Ball knew the gentle and elderly anarchist Gustav Landauer, active there, a fine writer especially notable for his theory of play.

In 1914 she spent time in prison charged with forging passports for those wishing to escape the war. She identified with the pacifists, not like some of the avant-guardists who supported the war. John Elerfield, editor of Flight Out of Time by Hugo Ball, claims she was implicated in a murder. She and Ball left for Zurich in 1915 to escape the madness.

According to Huelsenbeck, Hennings sang “Hugo Ball’s aggressive songs with an anger we had to give her credit her for although we scarcely thought her capable of it,” referring to the passionate voice of the frail Emmy. The Zurich Chronicle called her the “star of the cabaret” and described her as “exuberant as a flowering shrub, she presents a bold front and performs with a body that has only been slightly ravaged by grief.”

In her poem “Prison,” read at the first Dada event, she voiced her hatred of war and the prison system, her continuing despair: “There outside lies the world, there roars life, there men may go where they will, once we belonged to them, and now we are forgotten, sucked into oblivion, at night we dream of miracle on narrow beds, by day we go around like frightened animals, we peep out sadly through the iron grating, and have nothing more to lose....”

Cultural, Scientific & Social Revolution

Dada represented a beginning in a revolution of culture and consciousness, while Einstein brought the revolution in science. In November 1915 Albert Einstein triumphantly revised Newton’s universe with the General Theory of Relativity. “The general theory of relativity was not merely the interpretation of some experimental data or the discovery of a more accurate set of laws. It was a whole new way of regarding reality,” said his biographer Walter Isaacson.

In 1917 Hennings and Ball had broken with Dada and left Zurich. The Russian Revolution was in full swing. The Isaacson biography mentions the German Revolution of 1918 that began with a revolt of the sailors, became a general strike and then a popular uprising. On November 9, Einstein noted “Class cancelled because of Revolution.”

Protestors occupied the Reichstag and the Kaiser resigned. Students took over the university and jailed the deans and the rector. Einstein and two friends, physicist Max Born and psychologist Max Werthheimer, asked the students to release the prisoners. But the students didn’t have the power to do so, so Einstein and friends went to find the new German president who did then sign the release order. That day Einstein also addressed a group on the dangers of tyranny, both Right and Left.

Emmy published an autobiographical novel Gefangnis (1918) which described her prison confinement, her talks with other prisoners and the feeling prison provoked in her of being trapped always — whether in prison trapped by bars, or outside the walls trapped by society. Ball, who had written an entire book on Bakunin, now claimed anarchists were innocents (perhaps he did not always feel this way).

Emmy subsequently turned to Catholic mysticism. Most of her work, including two novels which may have a religious turn and further information on her life, is available only in German.

Einstein’s work was not known to the broad world until 1919 when it was confirmed by the Eddington observations (on the deflection of light by gravity — ed.) The New York Times then published a huge six-part headline “Lights All Askew in the Heavens, Men of Science More or Less Agog over Results of Eclipse Observations, Einstein’s Theory Triumphs, Stars Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to Be. But Nobody Need Worry.....”

Kandinsky too passed through Zurich. He was a friend and a major influence on Hugo Ball, in touch with Tzara, and his work was included in the first Dada journal (1916). It is notable that Kandinsky’s Moscow exhibition of 1920 shows a change in his work — forms floating in space, perfect circles, geometric designs, the spectrum of color, bent forms and waves, cosmological considerations. He seems to have been translating Einstein’s theory of relativity into exhilarating paintings.

In a time of high hopes and many defeats a short-lived Munich Soviet was established in 1919 and the gentle Gustav Landauer became minister of education. Soon all were massacred by the military Freikorps. (On the Munich Soviet and massacre, seehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bavarian_Council_Republic — ed.)

Thinking about Dada today, it is astonishing that such a small, obscure group should have become such an influence. It was the laboratory for new ideas and unrestrained, uninhibited, playful activity and their works still find joyful resonance in our hearts. Groupings like this still exist.

One finds them around small magazines; they are poets, artists, socialists, anarchists and environmentalists. They are determined to create new ideas, new worlds and most of all, a new future.


Reproduced from Against the Current

March-April 2016, ATC 181