Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Bahishkrut Bharat Editorial: ‘First Superstructure, Then Base’

(First published on APRIL 9, 2018 at PRABUDDHA COUNCIL‘s blog)

Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar started and exclusively managed the tabloid Bahishkrut Bharat with the vision to awaken the masses. Its first edition came out on 3rd April 1927, and no more editions can be found after 15th November 1929. In the span of two and a half years, 46 editions were brought out.

Following is an important editorial from Bahishkrut Bharat which talks about the difference between the revolutionist movements done by the communists and the indigenous workers’ movements. This editorial has been translated from Marathi to English by Vruttant and Krittika, PhD Researchers, JNU, New Delhi.

The logo of Bahushkrut Bharat, sourced from Wikimedia

First Superstructure, Then Base

Friday, 4th October, 1929: Bahishkrut Bharat.

While the efforts of the communists in this country are directed towards capturing the labour movement, the results of the recent major strike of the mill workers in Mumbai posed a crucial question in front of the working class- whether they should give the reins of their movement in to the hands of communist leaders or not. The investigating court nominated by the government under the jurisdiction of Justice Pearson has ruled against the mill workers’ union. It held the opinion that, while the aforementioned union could not prove its case with enough evidence, the union leaders did not act in accordance to the terms of the contract signed by them on behalf of the workers and jobbers with Wadia & Sassoon.

In the last instance, the said union had stopped work and decided to strike. At that time initially, paying heed to the words of the leaders and fearing intimidation by the union’s committee-members and volunteers, people walked out of the mills. Yet, in this instance, people were not excited by the strike. Those who were responsible for feeding their families did not want the strike at this time, at all. Just last year, people had staged a strike for six months, and were overburdened by it; but this time, it was not a question of their daily bread, and even without any differences of opinion between the workers, it was impossible for them to carry on the strike for too many days. Hence, we were against this strike. Of course we want the movement of the workers. We also believe that the safeguarding of the rights of the workers does need a union, but the development of the workers’ movements into unnecessary starvation and indebtedness were not desirable to us. Even with the existence of thousands of people belonging to castes considered as untouchable, their situation was far worse than the other mill workers. Already they are given the lowest-paying jobs in mills, and most do not have any financial support by way of farming in villages. Feeding from hand-to-mouth, coupled with last year’s massive strike of six months and the later trifle 80-90 strikes in this mill and that mill, really overburdened the workers at the hands of debts. Because of this, they had no energy left to participate or stay in this strike. But, unbothered by these issues, the leaders of the union were adamant and went on to declare a big strike. The result of this was as expected.

Strike is an important weapon for the workers but it needs to be used carefully. The movement done solely by the indigenous workers union also need to have strikes, but the objective of such a strike is to remove the sufferings of the workers. In the revolutionist movement, the removal of workers’ sufferings is secondary, while the primary objective is to mentor for the making of a revolution… In workers’ movements, the primary aim is the improvement of the economic condition of the worker, but in revolutionist movement, the improvement of the workers’ economic conditions is merely a matter of ostentatious exhibition, and its ultimate purpose is to increase the feeling of dissatisfaction among the workers, and make their minds favourable to revolutionism. Therefore, the more the workers will starve, the more they suffer, the more their oppression increases, the more desirable it becomes from the perspective of the revolutionist, because without frustration, nobody gets ready for revolution. The revolutionists believe that an instant revolution will radically change the current state of the workers and a workers’ state will be established and thereby they (communist leaders) do not care about the present sufferings of the workers. It can be said that this kind of instant revolution is both desirable and possible according to the policy of the revolutionist leaders. But, in our honest opinion, instant revolution is neither possible nor desirable.
Today’s social structure is not satisfactory. While it is indisputable that property is distributed acutely unequally in society and that the lives of crores of people are in the hands of a few, the dispute lies in the method that is to be followed to bring about a transformation in the social structure. In this context, although it is true that an extreme illness demands an extreme cure, it does not mean that the patient is crippled in the name of curing. In the present situation in India, how far is communism desirable and how possible is it to bring about a random political revolution and such issues can be kept aside for a while. We need to first contemplate on how prepared are the minds of the workers of the country for a revolution. The primary fact that can be observed is that the leaders are communist but not the followers. What we should not forget is that the workers who consider the communists as their leaders do not properly know all of their true opinions. God, religion and Nation are banished from communism. Notions related to God, religion and Nation have been spread and maintained by selfish people with the aim to maintain their own supremacy among the Bahujan society. The benefit of such notions are being secured by capitalism, feudalism, and imperialism, and without uprooting such notions real peace will not be restored in the world and the Bahujan society will not be happy, as per the principles of the communists. But how many workers know about this? If the opinions of communists with regard to God and religion were to be asserted openly, it would be difficult for them to get even a single follower from among the workers. We know from oral sources that numerous Maratha followers were infuriated when the communist leaders who pay their respect to Lenin’s statue or image were opposed to the installation of Shivaji Maharaj’s image in their office. Revolts against casteism and untouchability within workers are not less. Still, the red-flag bearing workers keep an eye out for untouchables who are disallowed from roaming near the water-tap at the mill, and that has repeatedly resulted in fights. Casteism and untouchability are far removed from communism in principle. If Lenin were to have taken birth in India, he would have first completely eradicated casteism and untouchability and having done that he would have not even thought of the idea of revolution.
Suppose, for a moment, that we accept that the communist revolution has been successful in this country. But will this revolution be beneficial for the Bahujan class? Can the social system envisioned by the communists be implemented? Perhaps, there will be absolute chaos in society, internal conflicts will increase, and the currently weaker or marginalised classes will fall prey to the oppression of those stronger classes privileged by the caste-system. Why do the Hindi communists think that, like Russia, if the Soviet political system is introduced in India, then casteism will automatically vanish, just like the swish of a fairy’s magic-wand will result in the automatic disappearance of social inequality? Will the communist principle that all the capital and land of the country belongs to the community, be acceptable to the people of the country and that, while the land belongs to the community, an individual’s private ownership on that is unacceptable, be palatable especially to the farmer, as per the communists’ understanding? It is still difficult to digest for the Russian farmers and hence the Soviet government, keeping aside its principled position, had to accept a compromising position, as is well-known. To put it briefly, it is impossible for the workers and farmers of this country to favour and digest the communist principles, at this present time. The consciousness which is needed by the Bahujan class for the realization of the ideal society of the communists is not at all prepared. Thus, we proclaim that the contemporary movements of the communists in this country are in a kind of reverse order of ‘first superstructure then base’.

Reference: Ambedkar, Dr. B. R. & ed. Gaikwad, Pradeep Latikabai. Agralekh: Bahishkrut Bharat va Mooknayak (9th edition). Nagpur: E. G. Printing Press, 2015.

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