“It is a pity that caste even today has its defenders. The defences are many. It is defended on the ground that the caste system is but another name for division of labour and if division of labour is a necessary feature of every civilized society then it is argued that there is nothing wrong in the caste system. Now the first thing to be urged against this view is that caste system is not merely division of labour. It is also a division of labourers. – B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste
“Marxism can develop only through struggle, and not only is this true of the past and the present, it is necessarily true of the future as well. What is correct invariably develops in the course of struggle with what is wrong. The true, the good and the beautiful always exist by contrast with the false, the evil and the ugly, and grow in struggle with the latter. As soon as a wrong thing is rejected and a particular truth accepted by mankind, new truths begin their struggle with new errors. Such struggles will never end. This is the law of development of truth and, naturally, of Marxism as well.” – Mao Zedong, ‘On “Let A Hundred Flowers Blossom, Let A Hundred Schools of Thought Contend” And “Long-Term Coexistence and Mutual Supervision’ (Five Essays on Philosophy)
“If we really need to go back to the classics, then let us say Lenin + Luxemburg, within a different horizon, not one of a continuity of struggle from democracy to socialism, but rather the horizon of the assertion and persistence of the communist need of the masses that is continuously ruptured on the capitalist side and constantly reproposed on the workers’ side.” – Antonio Negri, ‘Workers’ Party Against Work’ (Books for Burning)
Here are a couple of questions that every Indian radical worth his (or her) salt must now squarely and sincerely confront. Is it his lot now, in this second decade of the twenty-first century, to passively contemplate various struggles against oppression being mercilessly thrashed around and beaten to a pulp? Can such struggles, and their radical protagonists, do no better than turn their unmitigated physical brutalisation and political defeat into spectacles of sorry victimhood, and wait for the collective liberal conscience of the Indian nation to be moved enough for it to toss those struggles a few scraps of legalistic relief?
These questions are doubtless inconvenient and irksome for radicals currently immersed in a misplaced sense of victory and valour. They certainly do tend to poop the self-congratulatory party our spectacle-addled leftists and left-liberals have been busy hosting for a while now. Nevertheless, those questions have become particularly pressing after the Delhi police, acting in concert with reactionary lynch-mobs, unleashed an unsparing physical assault on university students demonstrating against casteist discrimination, while demanding justice for Rohit Vemula, outside the Delhi RSS office in Jhandewalan on January 30. And now, in the wake of a concerted counter-revolutionary offensive that was jump-started at JNU, our radicals simply have no other option than to seriously grapple with those questions.
Now is perhaps the right time for them to begin considering how their sundry protest-demonstrations can turn into forms of effective urban resistance. Something that will ensure the repressive state apparatuses and the counter-revolutionary goon-squads get as good as they give.
Our radicals need to think how slogan-shouting can cease to be the raising of demands and, instead, become a call for direct political action. However, this, contrary to first appearances, is not a plea for reactive violence. It is, instead, meant to be a proposal for developing a strategy that will enable the concrete articulation of direct transformative action.
A protracted period of hard work is required to put such a strategy in place. This cannot happen until and unless the concrete social spaces (or spatio-temporalities) – like, for example, the university – from which such protest-demonstrations emanate, and which are themselves internally segmented and hierarchised, are rendered sites of internal struggle.
Such internal struggles are needed not so that those social spaces function better as democratic islands – that is, function more efficiently as the (differentially) inclusive spaces they have always been. Rather, such struggles are needed so that the spaces in question are reorganised in a manner that they are internally de-segmented. All politics of so-called democratisation that seek to render social spaces more inclusive do no more than reproduce the logic of differential inclusion by recomposing that logic merely at the level of its concrete socio-historical forms or appearances. Until now, such types of politics have achieved that by mainstreaming social identities and forces by intensifying segmentation – i.e., by internally segmenting them.
Clearly, such politics of progressive democratisation does no more than enhance the democracy of negotiating better the terms of one’s systemic enslavement and domination. As opposed to such politics of so-called democratisation, the politics being proposed here is that of struggles for a complete functionalisation of social division of labour, and its constitutive hierarchy.
Socio-technical division of labour – or technical composition of social labour – is the constitutive basis of the internally segmented nature, and the attendant undemocratic and exclusivist culture, of all extant social spaces. There is absolutely no doubt that struggles need to target this undemocratic culture in order to destroy it. But the destruction of this culture, by way of its radical transformation, needs to be envisaged in a fashion that it articulates the destruction of the objective, material basis of that culture – the latter being a phenomenal manifestation of the former. In other words, struggles against undemocratic culture must target it as a mediation of its objective, material basis – which is social division of labour. This basis has to be negated in, as and through an affirmation of complete functionalisation of division of labour in its various concrete forms.
This would, to reiterate our point, negate social division of labour in its caste-like operation, and the logic of value-relationality that animates it. Among other things, this is the only way in which the radical-republican Ambedkarite project of annihilation of caste can be prised free from its bourgeois intsrumentalisation to be rendered an indispensable and integral moment of the revolutionary programme of abolition (not equality) of classes in the concrete specificity of the Indian subcontinent.
But what exactly would this proposed functionalisation of division of labour amount to? This would mean the elimination of individuated and fixed work-roles by rendering them rotational, fluid and thoroughly dynamic. That would ensure the hierarchy among different moments of the overall labour process – the social-industrial process – becomes dynamic and functional too. Among other things, this would also ensure the unleashing of technological potential in a manner that people doing certain kinds of degrading work such as manual scavenging are liberated from it.
Now, class struggle-induced development of capitalism through a progressive increase in the organic composition of capital has, as Marx had predicted in Capital, Volume I (‘Machinery and Modern Industry), already brought us close to realising the complete functionalisation of division of labour. The unstoppable rise in same-skilling due to functional simplification of the labour process on account of growing technologisation of production has ensured that.
But precisely because the production process is still orientated to enable and realise capital accumulation through exchange, it continues to be structured to enable extraction of surplus-value. As a result, the growing functionalisation of division of labour is registered, experienced and lived as unprecedented economic and social precarity, even as that precarity itself is continually segmented and differentially distributed. Not for nothing does Italian Marxist Paolo Virno characterise this conjuncture of capitalist development as “the communism of capital”.
In such circumstances, the only way forward would be to accentuate and organise the functional simplification of the labour process in a manner that various work-roles tend to become more and more dynamic, and thus less and less individuated and fixed, even as exchange-relations among different sites of production are simultaneously sought to be abolished. That would be a movement in the direction of complete functionalisation of division of labour, which is the only way for us to overcome “the communism of capital” and the abject levels of precarity and suffering it entails.
At this point, we would do well to flesh out the theoretical contours of a political strategy that strives to accomplish that. Let us begin by exploring in some detail the relationship between social division of labour and segmentation of social labour. Social division of labour has been the organising principle of all social formations, capitalism included. That is the reason why all such social formations have been class-divided societies.
Social division of labour is actually “division of labourers”. It is the principle of segmentation in operation. Ambedkar had demonstrated that while dealing with the problem of caste and its annihilation.
What needs to be properly grasped, however, is the crucial distinction between the functionality of social division of labour in socio-economic formations of yore and its functionality in capitalism. In pre-capitalist societies, social division of labour functioned purely as the arbitrariness and irrationality of power-relations that are intrinsic to such a division. In capitalism, the rationality of objectification, which is the mutual commensurability of different things – and thus exchange-relationality as its social-phenomenal realisation – mobilises and structures the social division of labour and the irrationality of power-relations intrinsic to it.
This does not imply that in capitalism the arbitrariness of power-relations, inherent in the operation of social division of labour, disappears. All it means is the rationality of objectification and thingification – which is manifest through exchange-relations as the law of value – validates the irrationality and arbitrariness of power-relations. This is accomplished by mobilising it in a way that the irrationality of power becomes integral to the rationality of value even as it retains its intrinsic irrationality and arbitrariness.
Not for nothing did Marx characterise capital as a “living contradiction”. Capital, as should be amply evident now, is constitutively an irrationalised rationality. So, insofar as social division of labour in capitalism is concerned, its functionality gets structured by exchange-relations to be their condition of necessity. Consequently, the functionality of social division of labour is structured to be the extraction of surplus labour time (or surplus-value). Its structural functionality is no longer what it used to be in various pre-capitalist epochs: simply the extraction of surplus use-values and surplus (concrete) labour.
This is precisely the reason why the division of labourers, which social division of labour unmistakably articulates in all socio-economic formations, functions in capitalism – even in concrete situations where such division of labour and labourers is not ostensibly mediated by the sphere of exchange – as the integral systemic digit of transfer of value from some segments of social labour to others. Therefore, it also functions as the systemic digit of extraction of value from social labour by social capital.
Social division of labour, insofar as it is the function through which the structure of value-relations institutes and organises itself, becomes the basis for generalisation of division of labourers, or segmentation of social labour.
What does this generalisation of segmentation of social labour – with its basis in the functioning of socio-technical division of labour – imply? Clearly, segmentation of social labour not only exists in, as and through concrete forms of socio-technical division of labour; it often exists even within the same work-function where there is no such division of labour possible.
In other words, not only does socio-technical division of labour in capitalism directly and immediately amount to segmentation of social labour, it also generates an overall culture of segmentation. Social labour is often hierarchically divided across various relational axes where there is no such socio-technical division of labour at work in an immediate sense.
In capitalism, social division of labour not only functions directly as division of labourers, it is also the overall condition for segmentation of social labour. An example of segmentation of social labour without the direct functioning of socio-technical division of labour – albeit certainly under its condition – is the division among permanent, contract and temporary workers within the same work-function or labour-process.
But the most apposite example that demonstrates segmentation of social labour both with and without its socio-technical division is the functionality of the caste system in its animation by capital’s value-relational logic. The appropriateness of this example stems from the fact that the context of this discussion happens to be that of caste-based oppression of Dalits – together, of course, with the oppression of nationalities such as Kashmiris – and struggles against it.
Not only does the caste system as social division of labour – thanks to it being a functional system of caste-occupation correlation – segment social labour, the culture it generates also serves to segment, or hierarchically divide, lower-caste and upper-caste labourers engaged in the same work-function. For instance, the caste-system in its functioning not only hierarchically divides the sweeper or the cobbler from the university student or teacher, but its culture also hierarchically segments lower-caste students (or teachers) of a particular discipline in a particular university from upper-caste ones in the same discipline and in the same university. This latter kind of segmental relationship, and the struggle it engenders, cannot be grasped in terms of it merely being the superstructure generated by the economic base of caste as social division of labour.
Of course, caste as a system of caste-occupation correlation has been rendered a key constituent of capitalist social division of labour in the historical specificity of the Indian subcontinent. It is, without doubt, a necessary condition for the existence of the culture that segments, or hierarchically divides, lower-caste labourers from the upper-caste ones within same work-functions. That said, the cultural struggle engendered by this kind of segmental relationship within the same work-function or labour-process is relatively autonomous of its economic basis in caste-based socio-technical division of labour. Which is to say, this culturally-articulated segmental relation, and the specific kind of struggle it engenders, is merely conditioned by the caste-based economy of socio-technical division of labour. It, therefore, has an autonomy all its own.
The relative autonomy of such culturally-articulated segmental relations between labourers engaged in same work-functions means that such cultural relations of hierarchy must also be grasped as economic relations of production in their own right. (It must be mentioned here that caste is only one of the indices, together with religion/ community, gender, sexuality and oppressed nationality, of such culturally-articulated economic relations of segmentation. In fact, the occupation and colonisation of Kashmir by India, together with the concomitant ideology of Indian nationalism in its ethno-racial and communal articulations in the Indian mainland, serves to regiment social labour by being constitutive of segmentation of social labour in its subcontinental specificity.)
The question, however, is how does one grasp a culturally-articulated relation of hierarchy in economic and productive terms. Marxists could, for one, attempt to do that by engaging rigorously with Ambedkar’s critique of socialism in Annihilation of Caste. Ambedkar had forcefully insisted that the conceptual centrality of property relations in socialist analysis was responsible for the paradigmatic blindness of Indian socialists to the problem of caste.
That problem was, as Ambedkar saw it, primarily one of social recognition and dignity, and only secondarily that of property relations as and where it manifest itself along the axis of caste relations. What Ambedkar was arguing is that caste-based discrimination and casteist atrocities, and the concomitant absence of dignity in caste relations, is not necessarily and directly correspondent to the level of tangible property or economic wealth one holds. The examples with which he substantiated his argument are all logically foolproof. In fact, his contention is also borne out by our example here of caste-based culturally-articulated segmentation of labourers engaged in the same work-function.
Clearly, it is the burden of Marxists to adequately address the issue raised by Ambedkar by re-conceptualising property relations. They should be able to show how property relations are not to be grasped merely in terms of possession of tangible wealth, but primarily in terms of one’s relational and relative control over conditions of production and/or reproduction. Tangible means of production or property being, in such circumstances, merely a socio-historically specifying subset of conditions of production.
It is only through such a reconceptualisation of property relations that one will be able to rearticulate the question of social recognition and dignity – raised so pertinently by Ambedkar from the Dalit location within the overall composition of social labour – as a question of psychologically-articulated labour for social reproduction, or production of labour-power (the abstract capacity for living labour). Such a re-conceptualisation of property relations is something that Marx, particularly the Marx of Capital and Theories of Surplus Value, arguably enables by virtue of having made his theory of value-relations the conceptual bedrock of property relations and/or social relations of commodity production.
Clearly, property relations as social relations constitutive of degrees of control (or lack of control) over conditions of production basically amounts to social relations constitutive of degrees of control over one’s labour-time. Marx’s value-theoretic analysis of property relations as social relations of production reveals precisely that – for, value is the ratio of surplus labour-time to socially necessary labour-time.
Now, in such circumstances, what would it mean for Marxists to rearticulate Ambedkar’s conception of caste as a system of relations constitutive primarily of hierarchisation of social recognition and dignity, in terms of psychologically-articulated labour for production of labour-power? The differential distribution of social dignity – more precisely, the differential distribution of social indignity – which is constitutive of a culturally-articulated segmental relation between lower-caste and upper-caste labourers engaged in the same work-function, amounts to a relative intensification of psychologically-articulated labour for production of labour-power for the lower-caste labourers in relation to their upper-caste counterparts.
In other words, lower-caste labourers in having to perform the additional psychological labour of grappling with the relative lack of social dignity, experience a relative intensification of labour-time for social reproduction – which is the time for production of labour-power – vis-à-vis their upper-caste colleagues.
This insight is the result of an encounter between Marxism as a theoretical approach of revolutionary class politics and Ambedkarism as a radical-republican epistemological project of annihilation of caste. It is particularly significant now in this neoliberal conjuncture of affective capital. Most importantly, it helps us grasp and rearticulate Dalit Bahujan struggles against various forms of denial of affirmative action – qua reservation in jobs and educational institutions – as a determinate index of struggle against segmentation of social labour, which is wrought through caste-based discrimination and/or oppression in the concrete specificity of the so-called systems of modern employment and education.
More accurately, such struggles against caste-based discrimination and/or oppression ought to be grasped and rearticulated as struggles for social wage specific to a particular kind and form of segmentation of social labour. Once we do that, we will see that such anti-caste struggles, not unlike all other struggles against various other forms of differentiation based on wages and/or social wages, tend to be determinate struggles against the logic of segmentation of social labour.
It must be stated here that in its moment of being a determinate struggle overcoming the logic of segmentation of social labour in its concrete specification, such an anti-caste struggle, like all other determinate struggles against segmentation, is singularity as a monad of its own universalisability. So, unless a struggle, which tends to determinately negate the logic of segmentation of social labour, is able to generalise that which it instantiates in its determinateness, it will tend to inevitably reproduce the logic of segmentation of social labour. That is because in its failure to generalise that which it determinately instantiates it effects the recomposition of socio-historical form of segmentation or value-relationality.
Clearly, struggles generated by various forms of segmentation of social labour are, with regard to their respective specificities, articulations of determinate destruction-recomposition of social labour in its constitutively segmental existence. Hence, struggles against denial of social wage through casteist discrimination and oppression – not unlike struggles against various other forms and types of wage-based and/or social wage-based differentiation – are, at once, the instantiation of the tendency of revolution and the mediation of the counter-tendency of juridical reform.
In that context, radical sections of the Dalit Bahujan movement, together with radical sections from within the largely non-Dalitised subcontinental Left, would do well to engage with various politico-ideological forms generated by the larger Dalit project of social emancipation by way of grasping those forms as a dialectic of the positive and the negative. That is, those forms, which are respective experiences of oppression and subalternisation rendered as articulations of resistance, ought to be grasped as a dialectic of determinate instantiation of the politics of de-segmentation, and the inhibition of such politics by its hypostasis into an ideology of recomposition.
It must be clarified here that such a politico-ideological form would, in its moment of being the tendency of recomposition, become constitutive of the internal division of the oppressed social group into sub-groups that are, in relation to one another, oppressor and oppressed. Meanwhile, the original relationship of domination of the overall Dalit segment of social labour by its non-Dalit segment would also stand reproduced. A good example of that is the socio-economic differentiation – often concomitant with segmentation based on “sanskritisation” and other forms of cultural modernisation – between educated, professionalised sections of Dalit Bahujans and the not-so-fortunate Dalit ‘underclass’, even as the former find themselves hierarchically separated out from their non-Dalit compatriots through culturally-articulated socio-economic processes.
It ought to be mentioned here that the non-Dalit segments of social labour, in the meantime, too keep undergoing internal differentiation along various other socio-economic axes that are either directly based on socio-technical division of labour or indirectly conditioned by it.
We must, at this point, realise that there is a crucial condition to be fulfilled if the proposed dialectical engagement with politico-ideological forms generated by various Dalit-Bahujan struggles is to be theoretically comprehensive and politically productive. The suggested dialectical engagement with politico-ideological forms constitutive of various Dalit Bahujan struggles for social emancipation should enable the radical sections from within the largely non-Dalitised Left to recognise that the various ideological forms of their own Marxism too are as much a dialectic of determinate instantiation of the politics of de-segmentation and its limit, as the politico-ideological forms of various Dalit Bahujan struggles.
Only then will those non-Dalitised radicals realise that the organisations and groups to which they belong now function as ideological state apparatuses constitutive of the perpetuation of segmentation of social labour; and not only along the axis of caste. Clearly, there is no point in demonstrating the reformist moment of Dalit Bahujan politico-ideological forms unless one is able to simultaneously reveal the reformist and petty-bourgeois identitarian moment of the ‘Marxist’ politico-ideological forms of the non-Dalitised Left. In theoretical terms, it would amount to an abject abuse of dialectics if one were to be ‘dialectical’ with regard to the former while choosing not to train that dialectical gun at the latter.
Politically, this would, of course, imply that sizeable sections of the non-Dalitised Left continue with their preponderant propensity to instrumentally mobilise Dalit struggles and Dalit social locations, all in the name of building an inter-caste unity of proletarians. That, needless to say, would amount to an intensified and accelerated perpetuation of the value-relational logic of segmentation of social labour precisely in the process of building a movement that is supposedly committed to the destruction of the law of value.
Of course, it is only by engaging in a comprehensive dialectical criticism that radical sections from within the Dalit Bahujan movement can overcome the reformist politics of progressive democratization, which thwarts the potential for revolutionary generalisation of abolition of classes inherent in its project of annihilation of caste. On the other hand, it is only such dialectical criticism that will likely enable the non-Dalitised subcontinental Left – certain sections of it at any rate – to break out of the double-bind it is currently caught in with regard to Dalit Bahujan struggles for social emancipation.
On that score, the Indian – or the subcontinental – Left can be broadly divided into two categories. First, there are those sections of the non-Dalitised Left, which even as they recognise the specificity of caste-based oppression, deny the various Dalit politico-ideological forms their relative autonomy and their moments of radical validity. These non-Dalitised Leftists reject, out of hand, those forms as so many articulations of reformism and petty-bourgeois identity politics without any dialectical-critical engagement with them. Their contention being that oppressed social groups such as Dalit Bahujans – or Muslims for that matter – ought to hitch their respective socio-political destinies to the cart of an abstractly articulated programme of working-class politics. Here class is envisaged as a sociologised category, a master-identity as it were, which is embodied by this or that party-like organisation, and which is meant to subsume all struggles against different forms and kinds of subalternisation and oppression into a larger single movement to capture state-power.
These party-Leftists tend to insist that only after such a ‘united’ working-class movement has taken state-power can their so-called party of the proletarians go about the business of putting an end to different kinds and forms of oppression and subalternisation by way of exercising the state-power so captured. Such a ‘party of the working class’, it must be reiterated here, strives to institute itself by uniting various sections and segments of the working people by having them submerge their relatively autonomous and determinate politico-ideological articulations against the logic of segmentation into that single movement for capturing state-power.
What is clearly missed by such a strategic approach of premature universalisation is the fact that this party-like organisation – which strives to forge such a unity in order to build a movement for capturing state-power – becomes the embodiment of an algebra of measure. It is, therefore, an adjudicatory form, vis-à-vis different segments of social labour. As a result, it functions as a form of instrumentalist politics, which is, therefore, rendered an interpellated and interpellating apparatus that tends to preserve and reproduce the value-relational logic of segmentation of social labour along various relational-identitarian axes, including that of caste.
Consequently, it tends to be the embodied form of preservation and reproduction of the capitalist state-form constitutive of the segmental grammar of value-relations while purportedly struggling against it. The inadequacy, or absence, of representation of oppressed social groups such as Dalits, Muslims, women and so on in important leadership positions of such party-like organisations is a symptom of the dangerously fallacious political strategy constitutive of such organisations. Our point here is, however, not to figure out how such Left organisations can become more comprehensively representative. Not at all! The point is, instead, to reconceptualise the mode of revolutionary-proletarian organisation of social labour in a manner that the problem of representation is precluded.
Such reconceptualisation can take place only as an integral and indispensable moment of rethinking and re-envisaging the strategic mode of revolutionary generalisation with regard to various anti-oppression struggles. It must be reiterated here that such struggles are determinate and thus monadic instantiations of the politics of de-segmentation. What such a reconceptualisation of the mode of revolutionary-proletarian organisation of social labour requires is one engage with every such struggle, and its concomitant politico-ideological form, as an asymmetrical dialectic. This would be an asymmetrical dialectic between self-activity of a particular segment of social labour determinately instantiating the self-organisation of the class in its collectivity, and simultaneously the limit of such self-organisation.
But let us not get ahead of ourselves. We shall discuss what is arguably the most appropriate and politically productive form of revolutionary-proletarian organisation while attempting later to describe and explicate in some detail the correct strategic mode of revolutionary generalisation. For now, let us focus on the second category of non-Dalitised subcontinental Leftists, and particularly and mostly non-party Left-liberals.
The strategic approach of these sections of the non-Dalitised Left and Left-liberals, which also includes in their ranks some libertarians and self-styled anarchists, is underpinned either by the rights-based discourse of progressive democratisation, or by one of the several poststructuralist discourses of difference. In terms of socio-political effects, the strategies that emanate from this second camp of non-Dalitised Leftists and Left-liberals – regardless of whether those strategies are theoretically orientated by the discourse of rights and essential human freedom, or a poststructuralist discourse of difference – are similar. That is to say, the socio-political effects produced by those strategies, regardless of their respectively distinct theoretical and philosophical accents, are reformist. And this shows that the strategic orientation of their politics, especially with regard to the Dalit question, is instrumentalist.
This particular section of non-Dalitised Leftists seeks to recognise the autonomy of various politico-ideological expressions of Dalit struggles to either bring them within a larger aggregative space of unity of struggles against different forms of oppression; or to mobilise the coordinated acceleration of difference those struggles are. In either case, the systemically-articulated objective relations of segmentation among those various social locations of oppression are obscured and left untouched. In such circumstances, the swiftness with which this second category of non-Dalitised Leftists recognise the autonomy of various politico-ideological forms of Dalit struggles has more than an air of instrumentalist bad-faith about it.
The imaginary at work, as far as both categories of non-Dalitised Leftists are concerned, is a redistributionist, statist one. Not surprisingly, both types of non-Dalitised Indian Leftists suffer from an incurable state-fetishism, which makes them, in the final analysis, nationalist. It must be stated here that the two categories of the largely non-Dalitised Left are, notwithstanding the apparent differences in their tactical-programmatic articulations, two sides of the same coin.
In the light of our discussion so far, we ought to unambiguously assert that struggles against brahminism as a form of caste-based social domination are struggles that determinately instantiate the destruction of segmentation of social labour. In other words, they in their respective particularities militate against the concrete mediation of the value-relational logic of segmentation that a particular form of social oppression maintains and operationalises. In such circumstances, struggles against culturally-articulated caste-based economic segmentation between lower-caste and upper-caste labourers engaged in the same work-function militate against the value-relational logic of economic segmentation in its concrete specification.
It also tends to concomitantly challenge the culture or ideology of casteism/brahminism, which is generated by caste-based articulation of the capitalist economy of socio-technical division of labour, and which, in turn, tends to reinforce that economy. Clearly, such struggles are indispensably integral to the destruction of the economy of caste-based socio-technical division of labour and the capitalist mode of production that animates it now. Such caste-based social division of labour is a constituent historical moment of the capitalist mode of production as socio-technical division of labour along various axes of both caste-based and non-caste forms of social relations.
Hence, struggles against culturally-articulated caste-based segmentation of labourers engaged in the same work-function constitute the necessary condition for the destruction of the capitalist mode of production. That is so because those struggles challenge the capitalist logic of segmentation and value-relationality in their concrete mediation by those culturally-articulated casteist economic relations. They also tend to ensure the culture of segmentation, which reinforces and legitimises the economy of caste-based social division of labour, is undermined. However, the economy of caste-based social division of labour, and the capitalist mode of production within which it stands rearticulated, is what generates such culture, and thus culturally-articulated economic relations of segmentation, in the first place. As a result, to privilege the waging of struggles against the culture of segmentation, and culturally-articulated casteist economic relations, over struggles against the destruction of the caste-based economy of socio-technical division of labour, and the capitalist mode of production, would be self-defeating.
The culture of segmentation, and culturally-articulated economic segmentations, cannot be decisively destroyed without negating the economy of caste-based socio-technical division of labour and the capitalist mode of production as a whole. In that context, an effective strategy will be one that is constitutive of the dialectical simultaneity of struggles against the culture of segmentation, which reinforces the economy of caste-based social division of labour and the capitalist mode of production; struggles against the caste-based economy of social division of labour, which generates and maintains that culture; and struggles against the capitalist mode of production, which is the constitutive value-relational logic of both caste-based and non-caste forms of socio-technical division of labour.
It must be reiterated here that the brahminical caste-system in its immediate discursive functioning is as much a culturally-articulated economic and social relationship of power and oppression now in capitalism as it was in pre-capitalist social formations in this part of the world. But while in pre-capitalism it accomplished the extraction of surplus labour, in capitalism the same functionality of power and oppression accomplishes transfer and extraction of surplus labour-time. This renders caste-based relations of power and oppression a key constituent of the differentially-inclusive totality of social relations of commodity production in all their caste and non-caste variety.
This is the actuality of capital, or the law of value, as a value-chain. In other words, brahminism – and the caste relations it manifests in its operation as both economy and culture – is a specification of capital in the concrete context of the some of the key sectors of socio-economic life on the Indian subcontinent. Hence, caste-based economic relations, and their constitutive ideology and habitus of brahminism, is a discursive specification of capital. In such circumstances, anti-brahminical struggles engendered by caste relations are as much moments of militation against the caste system as they are determinate moments of struggle against capital.
Now capital is not a stock or an entity external to caste that has to be destroyed for caste to be annihilated. Rather, capital is, as we have seen above, a differentially-inclusive mode of organising social relations to transfer and extract surplus labour-time. In other words, it is a differentially-inclusive force-field – or conjuncture – of various types of social relations of doing and appropriating labour. These social relations in their totalised articulation are tantamount to the production and extraction of surplus-value and surplus labour-time respectively.
It is in this context that one needs to appreciate the importance of the aforementioned strategy of dialectically-articulated simultaneity of the three types of struggles. Different forms of each of those three types of struggles – struggles against the culture of caste and culturally-articulated casteist socio-economic segmentation; struggles against caste-based social division of labour; and struggles against non-caste forms of socio-technical division of labour – are all equally necessary conditions for the total negation of capital.
But none of these struggles, by themselves, constitute the sufficient condition to accomplish that. The sufficient condition for the total negation of capital would be the dialectically-articulated simultaneity of all different forms of each of those three types of struggles. It is in this sense that various types and forms of struggle against segmentation of social labour are characterised as being relatively autonomous. That is to say the various forms of each of those three types of struggles must be mutually synchronised for them to be rendered the sufficient condition for the total negation of capital.
Without such mutual synchronisation – which Alain Badiou would describe as the mutual partaking of generic singularities – each of those three types of struggles in their isolated articulation would end up undermining themselves as the necessary condition for the abolition of capital that they are in their respective moments of emerging. In fact, those struggles in their isolated operation lead to the recomposition of capital as a force-field of differentially-inclusive social relations.
It must, however, be clearly stated here that the mutual synchronisation of these three types of struggles is not simply their aggregation. It is not coordination among them in their respectively isolated operation either. Such synchronisation is, instead, the constellating of those different types and forms of struggle with one another.
To rigorously and fundamentally distinguish between aggregation and constellation one needs to understand that every juncture of struggle against a particular kind of oppression, and the form of segmentation that such oppression secures, is in a mutually segmented relation with every other phenomenal and/or typological juncture of struggle. That is precisely how the character or mode of capital as the force-field of differentially-inclusive social relations is that of a conjuncture – the unity or contemporaneity of different and thus non-contemporaneous spatio-temporal junctures of oppression and struggle. This clearly indicates the unity of all such struggles shall be more than ephemeral and pragmatic only when such unity is, in turn, forged through struggles to abolish the segmental relations among those junctures of struggles.
The strategic articulation of this perpetual dynamic of struggle in unity and unity in struggle is what the constellating of those various junctures of struggle amounts to. Such a constellational strategy will be nothing but the uninterrupted process of complete functionalisation of division of labour as the struggle to abolish both its socio-technical structuring and the culture of segmentation such structuring concomitantly generates. This is the unrelenting process of production of politics in radical antagonism to the relentless process of the politics of production. This is the process of technical composition of social labour being rendered its political composition in antagonism to the process of political composition of social labour being technically recomposed.
It is, therefore, logically and strategically fallacious to talk of deferring the struggle for annihilation of caste till the struggle for abolition of capital is accomplished. By the same token, one cannot talk of holding in abeyance the question of total negation of capital until caste is annihilated by way of full democratisation of caste-based social relations. As a matter of fact, the programme for complete democratisation of caste relations will be a reality only through the abolition of classes. So, the two seemingly contradictory political positions above are actually historicist mirror-images of one another.
Annihilation of caste is an indispensable historical moment of the revolutionary politics for abolition of classes, even as the abolition of classes is the necessary condition for the annihilation of caste. What is being strategically proposed here is the dialectically-articulated simultaneity of cultural, social and political revolutions. More precisely, this strategic proposal is for the short-circuiting of struggles for democratisation with the movement for communism.
That would be the uninterrupted simultaneity of struggles for democratisation as tactically determinate instantiations of the real movement of communism, thereby rendering that real movement actual as the process of uninterruptedly simultaneous articulations of the former.
We would, at this point, do well to clarify that the position we are staking out here is neither ‘classist’ nor intersectionalist. We do not think the working class is another closed sociology or identity that needs to either subordinate and subsume the struggles of other oppressed identities within its own larger struggle; or, figure out and forge points of intersection with them. If anything, the theoretical position that underpins our strategic proposal is sedimentalist.
For us, class is the sedimental logic of every identity or socio-historical group, which renders each one of them an internally divided and asymmetrically dialectical terrain of two antagonistic tendencies – capital as real abstraction, and the singularity that is its determinate overcoming. It is this that renders every struggle against oppression, and the socio-historical group constitutive of such a struggle, relatively autonomous.
This sedimentalist approach to the twinned problems of capital and class is, without doubt, theoretically indebted to the concept of “overdetermination” as developed and explicated by Althusser. But unlike Althusser, the political strategy we seek to infer from this concept of overdetermination is not entryism.
An entryist strategy would return us, once again, to the party-state conception and modality of organisation, wherein an external party-form seeks to unite various relatively autonomous struggles by entering their respective specificities in order to be the generalisation of the determinate overcoming of capital that each of those struggles autonomously instantiate in and as their respective emerging. In seeking to accomplish this unity-as-generalisation, the external party-form tends to necessarily regulate, in a state-like fashion, the contradictions among those relatively autonomous struggles. Clearly, this strategy of entryism, thanks to the party-state modality that is integral to it, ends up reproducing the capitalist logic of instrumentalisation and subalternisation precisely in the moment of fighting against it.
The strategic approach we have sought to propose above, and which is inferred from the Althusserian concept of overdetermination, is arguably a left-communist one. This strategic approach, to summarise it here, consists of affirming the relative autonomy of every struggle against oppression in a manner that one envisages revolutionary generalisation as the constellated synchronisation of those struggles. Such a left-communist strategic approach arguably articulates an anti-substitutionist, and even a post-party, form and modality of organising politics. The post-party organisation is a form of loose organisation of militants generated by their mutual coordination. The modality of this mutual coordination is Bakhtin’s dialogical agon.
These militants belong to no external or pre-given party-form. They inhabit diverse junctures of struggle so that they can engage in a continuously ongoing process of inquiry to demonstrate to those struggles their respective limits. All this so that those struggles, and the self-activity that animates each one of them, can envisage themselves in a manner that they prefigure the overcoming of their respective limits by seeking to constellate with one another in order to emerge as a self-organising process of social labour in and as its own abolition. This would be the generalisation of destruction of segmentation by virtue of being the generalised affirmation of de-segmentation.
Clearly, the loose, post-party form of organisation is generated by the coordinated mode of mutual interactivity of militants for thrashing out, clarifying and fine-tuning the principles of inquiry and self-inquiry in the light of the specificity of their respective experiences. As we have indicated earlier, this post-party form and mode of revolutionary organisation tends to entirely preclude the problem of representation, which invariably dogs the party-form, and its substitutionist and instrumentalist modality, of revolutionary organisation.
Let us now try and give our discussion here a more concrete focus by turning our attention to the specific spatio-temporality of the university. Such a focus is significant because the discussion here is framed by movements of university students against different forms of oppression – which, therefore, gives this discussion its immediate context. Besides, the significance of such a focus also lies in the modern university being the key constitutive facilitator of socio-technical division of labour along the hierarchised axis of mental and manual labour. This is reflected not only in the hierarchy internal to the university system but also between the university system as a whole and the world outside it.
Clearly, university-based higher education is an ideological apparatus of the capitalist system to segment labour-power, and thereby internally divide and hierarchise social labour. It is, therefore, also a factory that produces the commodities of knowledge and labour-power.
For a movement that erupts from within a university to generalise itself as the abolition of the hierarchised separation between itself and the world outside, it should constitute itself in the process of abolishing that logic of segmentation between mental and manual work as manifest within the university itself.
In the final analysis, the space of the university and the space of the world outside it will have to constellate with one another by way of overcoming their segmental division along the axis of mental and manual labour. Only then will the politics against the counter-revolutionary project be able to generalise and strengthen itself as the revolutionary violence of the constellational real movement. But given the immediate context of university students demonstrating in protest against the institutional congealments of the counter-revolutionary project, we would be quite justified in insisting that abolition of the hierarchised division of mental and manual work begin from within the university itself.
The undemocratic cultural separation and division between Dalit Bahujan and non-Dalit students – or, for that matter, between students along other identitarian axes of community, gender, gender in caste, caste in gender, gender in community, community in gender and so on – has to be fought against. But struggles against those versions and variants of undemocratic culture – which are constitutive of the field of separation of mental from manual work, and division of social labour – can be accomplished only when those struggles are coterminus with battles to reorganise the university space in a fashion that the hierarchical social distribution of labour among and within teachers, students and other workers of the university (mess workers, cleaning and maintenance staff and so on) tends towards being completely functionalised. Only this will render the university the ground from which revolutionary generalisation, as the constellation of the university space with spaces outside it, can be effectively envisaged.
The short point of all this analysis is that unless such politics of de-segmentation of social spaces becomes the generative basis of collective demonstrations of anger and discontent that emanate from such spaces to spill out of them, such demand-raising demonstrations will lapse into mere radical bargaining and lobby politics. This, needless to say, will give the political-economic regime an opportunity to overcome its crisis. The militant energy that is registered in such protest-demonstrations will, in the absence of a concretely articulated politics of de-segmentation within the university itself, inevitably end up being exhausted by their discursive appearances.
There is a very definite reason for that. As long as concrete political actions to reorganise social spaces into sites of de-segmentation are not envisaged, the protest-demonstrations emanating from those spaces will not really and effectively be the expressions of collective rage they purport to be. In the absence of concrete political actions to reorganise those social spaces in order to de-segment them, such forms of protest-demonstrations emanating from those spaces will objectively, and finally even subjectively, amount to instrumentalised mobilisation of the concerns and discontent of some (subordinate) segments by the politics of disaffection of some other (relatively and relationally dominant) segments.
As a result, the constellational cohesiveness that is necessary for such protest-demonstrations to swiftly morph into effective formations of revolutionary action will obviously be lacking. The trust-deficit among various sections and segments of a particular social space, on account of that space continuing to exist in its constitutive segmentation, and the instrumentalism of ‘collective’ politics emanating from it, will ensure that.
The ‘collectivity’ of this politics of unity of struggles, manifest by such protest demonstrations, will, at best, be a pragmatic alliance, and thus an ineffectual, short-lived one. In fact, the reluctance demonstrated by such ‘radical’ politics of democratisation and inclusiveness to recognise the contradictions internal to the social space from which it stems, and its concomitant failure to concretely resolve them by abolishing the segmentations in which those contradictions inhere, makes the situation even worse.
The trust-deficit among segments constitutive of a social space is further accentuated by the instrumentalist politics expressed in forms of protest-demonstrations on account of those forms not being organic extensions of concrete political actions to completely de-segment the space in question. This, in turn, enables the counter-revolutionary political forces to further leverage those conflicts and contradictions among segments constitutive of an apparently homogeneous social space to either instrumentally neutralise, or mobilise and deploy some of those subordinate segments in a fascist manoeuvre against some other segments, thereby serving to strengthen the dictatorship of neoliberal capital.
In fact, it is precisely the practice of such subjectively substitutionist and objectively instrumentalist politics by various kinds of progressive political forces that has cleared the ground for the ascendancy of this political regime of neoliberal dictatorship in the first place.
This dictatorship of neoliberal capital – precisely the situation we are currently confronted with – is far more insidious than Fascism as a political regime. It tends to articulate the regimentation of the capitalist anarchy of differential distribution of insecurity across the entire spectrum of social labour by way of being the agency and enabler of differentially distributed capacities of social oppression. It is the guarantor of rights, no longer as differential distribution of positive entitlements, but as differential distribution of negative determinations. It is the fascisation of entire society – what is often called “the generalised state of exception” – and which therefore renders Fascism as a political regime redundant.
This dictatorship of neoliberal capital is a situation of fascism without fascists. In that sense, it is a post-fascist socio-political order. Unless this is properly grasped and rigorously made sense of, our everyday political practice against the counter-revolutionary project in its conjunctural specification will objectively, and at times even subjectively, continue to be in the service of precisely that which it seeks to triumph over.
When concrete political actions to reorganise a social space in order to entirely de-segment it becomes the basis for forms of political movement emanating from such a space against a counter-revolutionary state-formation, such forms acquire inestimable resources of revolutionary militancy. And that is not all. The politics integral to such forms of constellational collectivity also tend to ensure that contradictions internal to the social base of a counter-revolutionary project get further sharpened leading to the implosion of that project.
All those who aspire to institute the duration of revolutionary democracy would do well to recognise the futility of the strategic approach of fighting the current dispensation as if it were a Fascist political regime. This is a strategic approach that is currently dominant across the entire spectrum of Left and Left-liberal politics in India. This so-called anti-fascist approach seeks to counter-pose a popular frontist, homogenising unity of struggles against the counter-revolutionary bloc that it designates as the bloc of Fascism, and which it therefore sees as being homogeneous and internally cohesive.
The problem with this strategic approach – a problem that has become particularly acute in this late-capitalist conjuncture of heightened precarity – is the following: its objectively instrumentalist character becomes so accentuated that it dissipates the political energy of struggles against the counter-revolutionary advance even as the counter-revolutionary political project is able to strengthen itself by leveraging the deepening of contradictions and conflicts inevitably wrought by such instrumentalist politics of so-called anti-fascist unity.
Such a strategy is instrumentalist because in envisaging the building of a cohesive and homogeneous anti-fascist bloc – which is thoroughly informed by the principle of unity of different struggles – it seeks to aggregate various disaffected segments of society by papering over the contradictions among their various discontents. As a result, such a strategy of ‘anti-fascism’ fails to emphasise the signal importance of envisaging a politics that would target the institutional congealments of the counter-revolutionary project by necessarily basing its attack on struggles that recognise various segments within that bloc of so-called anti-fascist unity in order to abolish them.
The strategy of building a homogenised ‘anti-fascist’ unity further deepens the contradictions within that unity and leaves the ground open for the counter-revolutionary forces to instrumentally mobilise and deploy them for entirely restorative ends. Such counter-revolutionary mobilisation, needless to say, is constitutive of further deepening the segmentation of social labour, and intensification of the process of differentiated distribution of insecurity, subalternisation and oppression.