Social Scientist. v 7, no. 82 (May 1979) p. 4.


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4 SOCIAL SCIENTIST

quarters, this familiar argument takes a different integument. Their position is stated thus. As long as caste hostilities and caste antagonisms are uppermost, Marxists would do well to rid themselves of the obnoxious habit of placing class struggles in the forefront. Gail Omvedt in particular makes this the central focus of her account of the Marathwada uprising, and she is also perhaps the most representative spokesperson of this school.2 According to her, caste wars, such as in Marathwada, recognise no class lines or other Marxian niceties. Any talk, therefore, of abolishing casteism by stressing class struggle will be futile and beside the point. It also. she believes, confounds the issue for those untouchables who feel the stigma of casteism the most.3 Castes need to be abolished first, and Marxist parties, Omvedt seems to imply, should give up their notion of class struggle for the time being and put their shoulder behind the mainstream Dalit movement whose sponsors are allergic to any mention of class struggles. Her specific complaint against communists is that they "have never initiated and led a democratic movement aimed specifically at abolition of caste discrimination—a movement, that might not be immediately directed to the overthrow of the state."4 (emphasis added). The above in a nutshell is Omvedt's position. A movement aimed against casteism is essential, while rooting it in and uniting it with class struggles aimed at the overthrow of the bourgeois state is not.

Omvedt, however, like a good polemicist, covers herself well by constantly repeating in her paper that caste issues should be united with class issues.5 But when she comes to formulating a programme as to how this should actually be done she advocates that communists should legitimize the ^cultural-revolt5' led by the mainline Dalit movement,6 without making clear how class issues can be followed up in such an alignment. This leads to a dangerous theoretical obfuscation.

Omvedt seems to be unaware of the fact that the exploiting classes are not a passive lot who will sit by calmly on the side lines while this great cultural revolt is consummated. If castes have been utilised by the exploiting classes, then surely one cannot expect them to be passive spectators. How then is one to arm the mass of Dalit oppressed if the class issues are not brought out in the forefront ? Omvedt also does not stop to seriously enquire why is it that the Dalit leadership, according to her, finds any mention of class and class struggle revolting—an alien insertion and of no use to them ?7 She lumps all the Dalits together as a homogeneous



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