Journal of Socialist Theory

Rethinking Secularism in India in the Age of Triumphant Fascism

This essay deals with the rise of the right-wing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) to power in the 2014 National Elections, a party that is fundamentally anti-secularist and anti­democratic whose aim is to convert secular and democratic India into a Hindu Kingdom. It deals with the crisis of secularism in India and the Revolutionary Marxist response to this crisis. The methodology that it follows is the Marxist one. The leitmotiv of this paper is rather startling—Marx was not a secularist as one has hitherto imagined. It claims that a new theoretical problematic has to be sought in understanding the dilemma haunting secularism: the discourse and practice of secularism are important, and yet Marx (the exemplary humanist and revolutionary) was not a secularist as one imagines it. What we have done is a terrain shift in our study of secularism, especially on the question of the thesis of the separation of religion and the state. This essay consequently makes a distinction between ‘secularism as we know it’, or liberal secularism, and communist secularism. Besides this, the essay grounds the discourse in material social formations in India that are determined by the Asiatic mode of production and along with this mode, the caste formations that are inherent in the Indic variant of the Asiatic mode of production. By and large, the entire discourses of secularism and the rise of fascism in India determined by the ideologies of liberalism and Stalinism ignore the caste question. Thus along with the caste question, the Asiatic mode of production is also brought in, a mode of production that mainstream Marxists have almost ignored, thereby implanting Eurocentric understandings of secularism in India. We thus discover certain methodological guidelines where we develop new terms and conditions to understand an authentic ‘people’s secularism’. This essay deals with the question of secularism in India as rooted in the conflict between ‘secularism from above’ that was grafted by Jawaharlal Nehru and the upper caste elites in the freedom movement against British colonialism and ‘religious politics from above’ that formed the contours of elite politics in India since 1947. In contrast to ‘secularism from above’ (or liberal secularism) and ‘religious politics from above’, this essay argues for ‘secularism from below’, which shall serve as the revolutionary critique of Indian fascism. eywords: Secularism in India; Brahmanism; Marxism; Caste; Hinduism; Hindutva; FascismThe result the analysis led to, therefore, was not a resolution of the problem as it emerged at the beginning, but a complete change in the terms of the problem. (Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I) Every new aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms of that science. (Frederick Engels, ‘Preface to the English Edition’, Capital, Vol. I)Social Democratic theory, and even more its practice, have been formed by a con­ception of progress which did not adhere to reality but made dogmatic claims.... The concept of the historical progress of mankind cannot be sundered from the concept of its progression through homogenous, empty time. (Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’)

There are, in my view, two enemies which the workers of this country have to deal with. The two enemies are Brahmanism and capitalism. (B.R. Ambedkar, ‘Capital­ism, Labour and Brahmanism’)

Introduction: On the Rise of Fascism in India

In the May 2014 National Elections, the neo-conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) —a political front of the paramilitary fascist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the National Voluntary Corps—won and took power in New Delhi. A feature of the RSS is that it explicitly bases its ideology on the construction of an imaginary Hindu Nation (what the RSS calls ‘Hindu Rashtra’). Formed in 1925 in the era of the rise of European fascism, the RSS modelled itself after Mussolini’s black shirts, and later after Nazism, especially after its ideology of racist nationalism. Its idea of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ was borrowed from the European fiction of eugenics, where nationhood was said to be not defined in terms of Constitutional Democracy and citi­zenship, but determined by biological descent and religious hysteria. For the RSS, secu­larism is something to be violently denied. After the formation of Israel, the RSS also borrowed from the racist and xenophobic Zionist ideology of nationhood that inflicts terror on its Arab neighbours. This victory of the BJP has to be seen as a seismic shift in Indian politics. Narendra Modi, who found himself crowned the Prime Minister, was the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat before his phantasmagorical and alarming crowning. It was he who oversaw the 2002 anti-Muslim genocide. It was also he who transformed Gujarat into a corporate managerial state with zero degree tolerance for workers’ rights and the rights of minorities (especially Muslims) and other marginalised people. In late 2013 when the BJP was getting ready for the elections, it also started a campaign called ‘love jihad’, claiming that Islam has started a new form of jihad (Holy War)b y enticing Hindu women into marriage and then forcing them to convert to Islam. This form of hate politics led to riots in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh where innocent Muslims were massacred by the RSS foot soldiers, leading to the displacing of more than 50,000 people in the period August-September 2013. Besides following an aggressive neo-liberal economic policy (especially by attempting to introduce the Land Acquisition Bill where Multi National Cartels can take over agrarian land, attack­ing trade unions, closing down the Planning Commission and keeping their ideolo­gues in public institutions), the BJP has been attempting to weaken Constitutional Democracy by forcing the ideology that they call ‘Hindutva’ (the essence of Hinduism) onto people, intending to transform India into a Hindu Kingdom. It must be noted that this ideology of Hindutva was coined by V.D. Savarkar, who in the early 1920s wrote a book called Essentials of Hindutva where he developed a theory of ‘Hindudom’ modelled after feudal Europe’s idea of Christendom. In 1925 the RSS was formed and in 1939 M.S. Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Leader) of the RSS, wrote his infamous We or Our Nation Defined, a text that serves as the ideological fountainhead of the RSS: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.1 It must be noted that for Golwalkar ‘Race is the body of the nation, and that with its fall, the nation, ceases to exist’,2just as for Savarkar, ‘Nazism provided undeniably the savior of Germany’.3It must also be noted that the idea of the ‘race-spirit’ along witht he fascist idea of the ‘Aryan race’ forms the basis of the ideology of the RSS. The BJP is the machine that seeks to implement the ideology of the RSS. It is important to stress that Hitler was a model for Savarkar. Consider him: ‘There is no reason to suppose that Hitler must be a human monster’.4There are two criteria for nationalism: the ideas of the Fatherland and the Holy Land. And it is only that the Hindus who qualify for the above. For all non-Hindus, there seems to be some other Holy Land. Consider Savarkar:But besides the tie of the common Holy Land has at times proved stronger than the chains of Motherland. Look at the Mohammedans. Mecca to them is a stern reality than Delhi or Agra. Some of them do not make any secret of being bound to sacrifice all India if that be to the glory of Islam or could save the city of their prophet. Look at the Jews; neither centuries of prosperity nor sense of gratitude for the shelter they found, can make them more attached or even equally attached to the several countries they inhabit. Their love is, and must necessarily be divided between the land of their birth and the land of their Prophets. If the Zionists’ dreams are ever realized—if Palestine becomes a Jewish State and it will gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends—they, like the Mohammedans would naturally set the interests of their Holy Land above those of their Motherland in America and Europe and in case of war between their adopted country and the Jewish State, would naturally sympathize with the latter, if indeed they do not bodily go over to it. History is too full of examples of such desertions to cite particulars. The cru­sades again, attest to the wonderful influence that a common Holy Land exercises over peoples widely separated in race, nationality and language, to bind and hold them together. The ideal conditions, therefore, under which a nation can attain perfect solidarity and cohesion would, other things being equal, be found in the case of those people who inhabit the land they adore, the land of whose forefathers is also the land of their Gods and Angels, of Seers and Prophets; the scenes of whose history are also the scenes of their mythology. The Hindus are about the only people who are blessed with these ideal conditions that are at the same time incentive to national solidarity, cohesion and greatness.5 Since the recent triumph of the BJP, ministers belonging to this party have not only been making rabid public statements forcing those who do not vote for the BJP to be thrown into neighbouring Pakistan (a nation that the BJP loves to hate), forcible conversions to Hinduism (they call it ghat wapsi or ‘home coming’), attacking Churches, etc., but have also now implemented law which bans the eating of beef, thereby destroying the livelihood of Muslims. In a recent interview on television, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi (ironically a Muslim member of the BJP) said that the beef ban, ‘is not a matter of loss or profit; it is an issue of faith and belief. All those who want to eat beef can go to Pakistan’.6That a controversial ‘journalist’ and confidant of Narendra Modi, Ved Pratap Vaidik (probably an Indian secret service agent from the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)—the equivalent to the Pakistani ISI and the American CIA) metH afeez Saeed in July 2014 (the controversial religious politician from Pakistan and self-declared amir of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah whose hand is suspected in the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai) is itself clue to the close clandestine networking of the South Asian facists. This linking of these two anti-secularists shall also turn out to be the key to the understanding of the rise of the religious-right in South Asia.May 2014 shall serve as an epistemic signifier for understanding the decadence of parliamentary politics in India where not only is the legitimacy of liberalism ques­tioned, but will also show how the crisis of late imperialism in permanent crisis has thrown Indian fascism into political power. In the face of this fascist onslaught, ‘secu­larism as we know it’ is overawed by the situation. And this is because ‘secularism as we know it’ as liberal secularism deals more with the rationalisation of capitalist gov­ernance in India and less with the problems of the toiling masses. It does not want to deal with the question of fascism. It most certainly wants to be blind to the aspirations of people. And this is also because the liberals never wanted to deal with political economy and class struggle. Not only were the liberals oblivious to the questions of political economy, labour, class and imperialism, they would also refuse to engage with the most burning issue of Indian society, namely, the caste structure of society —the basic social structure of Indian society based on endogamous and anti­democratic clan-like systems and governed by the principles of graded inequality and division of labourers.Caste as ‘enclosed class’,8even as a ‘gang or clique’,9‘warring groups’and ‘close corporation’,11whilst being a necessary part of pre-capit­alism India, is also a necessary part of capitalist India. Modern India could never annihilate the caste system, but has re-ordered it for the purposes of capital accumu­lation. Here we bring in Rosa Luxemburg’s argument that capitalism needs pre-capi­talist sectors (thus caste) in order to re-produce itself.12 It must be stressed that though liberal secularism has been oblivious to the question of caste, and along with it oblivious to the question of the ideas of graded inequality and division of labourers; there is also an alternative reading of secularism, ideas that were introduced by B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), a great revolutionary, radical democrat and master par excellence of the critique of both caste and capitalism whom both the Indian liberals and the Indian Marxists inspired by Stalinism (andt heir reductionist and Eurocentric fetishism of ‘class’ devoid of concrete analysis) never bothered to understand.What I am saying is that caste has three sites, sites that the Indian fascists have been able to mobilise to create their fiction of the Hindu Kingdom and attack secularism and democracy. Caste is thus to be understood as:

  1. Enclosed, petrified and reified class based on the principles of hierarchy and the totem of purity and the taboo of pollution,

  2. Racism, albeit of the South Asian variety where the upper castes are understood as being of higher ‘stock’ and the lower ones considered as biologically inferior, and,

  3. Neurosis-psychosis and the creation of the ideology of neurosis-psychosis which breeds contempt of other social groups (especially the Muslims) and renders unnecessary the process of creating a democratic culture.

What I am further stressing is that fascism in India and the crisis of secularism have emerged from the cranium of caste (as warring gangs and the consequently ideology of riots and wars) along with the crisis of capital accumulation. What I am also saying is that we cannot have the old stale definition of fascism as the ‘dictatorship of finance capital’ devoid of concrete material and historical contexts. Fascism in India and the crisis of capitalism have emerged from the caste-class dialectic. Consequently the analysis of this is of extreme importance. It must be noted that the caste system is an extremely hierarchal system that divides people into four enclosed categories: priests (Brahmans), warrior (Kshatriyas), merchants (Vaisyas) and peasants (Sudras), along with a fifth addition—the Ati-Sudras (those who are condemned to be outside the caste system) standing at the bottom of this anti-democratic pyramid.13 One must also note that the Indian fascists place at the centre of their violent ideol­ogy the figure of the warrior-priest, where the first two castes (Brahman-priests and Kshatriya-warriors) are fused into one uncanny ‘priestly warrior’ in perpetual war with the lower castes. One must also note that this caste-based idea of the warrior- priest ideology evoked by the Indian fascists and their contempt for the Indian liberals (especially secular democracy in general and Jawaharlal Nehru and M.K. Gandhi in particular) was because they did not believe in this warrior-priest ideology. However, it must also be noted that it is not merely the case that the Indian fascists borrow from the Nazis. Even the Nazis were fond readers of the Vedas and the Gita (the ‘Holy Book’ of Hinduism that the BJP wants declared as the ‘National Book’ thus sidelining the democratic Constituion) and the racist ideology of Nazism learnt from the Indian caste system and their ideology of violence borrowed from the Vedic ideology of the warrior-priests. It must be noted that Heinrich Himmler ima­gined that he was the mythical Hindu ‘hero’ Arjun and Hitler was Krishna, the ideol­ogist par excellence of the caste system. Let be stressed that in the caste-clan repertoire (as Ambedkar continuously reiter­ated) the basic democratic principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are missing. And because Indian fascism is predicated on the caste system where the totem of purity and the taboo of pollution rule, governed by an extremely hierarchal system, to understand anti-secularism and Indian fascism, the understanding of caste is of great importance. Without this understanding, it is impossible to understand the rise of Indian fascism. Why do we say this? We say this because the Indian bourgeois democratic revolution has not been accomplished. The ghost of the past now haunts India. Consider Marx:Alongside of modern evils, a whole series of inherited evils oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms. We suffer not only from the living, but from the dead. Le mort saist le vif. We are seized by the dead!14


urocentrism, Caste and the Limits of Liberal Secularism

Although we begin with the question of Marx’s idea of caste as a whole series of inher­ited evils oppressing us, we need to reflect on the wrong Eurocentric idea of history where an entirely homogenous and unilinear idea of European view of history is thrust on the whole world. We begin thus with Walter Benjamin’s critique of Social Democracy and its idea of estranged history, what he calls history determined by ‘empty, homogenous time’.15What I am claiming is that reflections on secularism in India cannot be done on a West European liberal democratic imagination, an imagination that one can call after Benjamin ‘empty’ and ‘homogenous’. Instead we are talking of a radical reading of Marx’s philosophy of secularism, based on the non-Eurocentric imagination. What I am also claiming is that a certain form of secu­larism came into being in India that was dominated by Eurocentric imagination, thus disabling what I call ‘popular secularism’ or ‘secularism from below’. What this Euro­centric and colonial inspired secularism (which we also call ‘liberal secularism’) did was that with its almost fetishised attachment to the bureaucratic state mechanism —and leaving the masses at the mercy of Asiatic semi-feudalism and with it both caste and capitalism—it gave space to a right-wing imagination of a violent Hindu Rashtra to emerge. My main point in the essay is that liberal secularism emerged from the Westphalia model of the nation-state in Western Europe that was steeped in mass violence itself. Whilst European secularism with the construction of the bour­geois state demolished feudalism, it also took arms against both the proletariat and suppressed nationalities and ethno-religious communities that resisted this bourgeois nation-state.16 Yet whilst Europe suppressed feudalism in the triumph of capitalism, India, like many a part of Asia, let semi-feudalism retain its economic and ideological cranium. Consequently the Indian elites did not put the programme of the annihil­ation of caste (with its anomalies of an extremely hierarchal and divided patriarchal clannish society) in its politics, did not talk of the anti-semi-feudal revolution, thus letting the edifice of traditional Asiatic semi-feudal power system intact. Along with the survivals of semi-feudalism, Indian liberalism embraced militarism and the vio­lence of the nation-state that repressed ethno-religious communities. Since the upper-caste hegemonised both the economy and politics in India and since globaln eo-liberal capital accumulation needs an anti-secular state in India, the rise of the RSS in power could only be said to be imminent.The centrality of our argument is based on the question of the Asiatic mode of pro­duction determined by Asiatic elitism. In this Asian elitism (in India this elitism was that of the Brahmanical anti-materialist, anti-scientific and anti-people’s attitude) a certain form of tragedy was scripted. In this tragic narrative, India (because of the Brahmanical anti-materialist and ritualistic attitude) repressed the Enlightenment project (ironically that emerged from Asia itself—rather West Asia—and then passed on to Florence) and in doing so repressed the spirit of people’s scientific inquiry and thus retarded the industrial revolution, only to have colonialism create a parasitical colonial capitalism ‘from the outside and the above’. The problems facing secular politics in India emerge from this tragedy. What secularism first needed was the industrial revolution, the spirit of scientific inquiry, the creation of a relatively autonomous civil society and an advanced class to fight pre-capitalist ideol­ogies and politics. Since neither the Asiatic mode of production nor colonialism in the last resort allowed this dialectic to operate, but in fact created a colonial class ofupper- caste elites to manage colonial capitalism, the entire political discourse (the politics of secularism included) was determined by this colonial upper caste elitism. Now we know that the questions of both caste and secularism are issues that are of fundamental importance in radical politics. For Marx, contrary to a dominant interpretation where orthodox Marxists have forgotten this in the pursuit of an epis- teme of class reductionism based on an Eurocentric understanding of Marx, and where a large part of the subaltern-Dalit movement have made claims that Marx did not figure caste in his revolutionary theory, we claim that caste is the centre for analysis such that caste stands at the centre of the Indian variant of the Asiatic mode of pro­duction. He calls caste ‘the solid foundation of Oriental despotism’.17Consider this passage from Marx:We must not forget that these idyllic village-communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies ... We must not forget that this undignified, stagnatory, and vegetative life, that this passive sort of existence evoked on the other part, in contradistinction, wild, aimless, unbounded forces of destruction and ren­dered murder itself a religious rite in Hindustan. We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated humanity to external circumstances instead of elevating humanity the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that humanity, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman, the monkey, and Sabhala, the cow. In opposition to thinkers from Irfan Habib to Edward Said and Ashis Nandy criti­quing this very realistic reading of Marx, we are saying that this anti-humanist theme of the semi-feudal elites stands central to India even today. With the Media Industry’s sponsored ideological coup which drove the Indian Bonaparte, Narendra Modi, to power in the 2014 National Elections with the draconian politics of making India a Hindu Rashtra (with its circus of monkeys and cows, where ‘humanity, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Hanuman, the monkey, and Sabhala, the cow’), the questions of democracy and secularism have to be rethought. Considering that the RSS’s rewriting of history has started once again, where they are now claiming that caste is not inherent in the Indian mode of pro­duction and Hindu ideology, but emerges (according to their fantastic claims) with the advent of Muslims in India,19one has to rethink the caste question afresh. Along with the questions of democracy and secularism, one is also bringing the ques­tion of caste, since democracy is inexorably linked to the social structure of society, which itself in India is tied down to the caste question.Debates on secularism in India stand on rigorous grounds. Thinkers like Alam Khundmiri, Asghar Ali Engineer, Sumit Sarkar, K.N. Pannikar, Akeel Bilgrami, Sunil Khilani, Gyan Prakash and Rajeev Bhargava have been engaging this debate for the past many decades. One also cannot forget the strange anti-secular trio of Ashis Nandy, T.N. Madan and Partha Chatterjee. Yet despite their theoretical rigour, the questions of the Asiatic mode of production and caste, combined with Marx’s theory of alternative historiography for Asia, seemed to evade their theoretical imagination. My essay links the secular view point with the caste question. The voices of Marx, Freud and Ambedkar will be heard in the background of this essay. The voices of the two great 11th-century Persian writers Firdausi and Alberuni and the 10th- and 11th-century Arabic writer Tha‘alibl shall also be heard in the recalling of radical histories of Asia. My point of view is the radical secularist view that is not interested in the thesis of the mere separation of religion and the state. Instead it is the Marxist historical mate­rialist understanding of Asia and the Freudo-Marxist point of view in critiquing both the liberal and fascist ideological and political superstructure 20that shall be our chief methodological guide line.Likewise contemporary scientific studies on caste comprise a very rigorous reper­toire. One can take Jyotiba Phule (1827-1890) and B.R. Ambedkar as the popular,s 21cientific and philosophical pillars on the studies on caste. The studies of D.D. Kosambi, R.S. Sharma, Irfan Habib, Sharad Patil and Romila Thapar from the Marx-inspired genre follow. Contemporary scholars besides Nicholas Dirks, Chris- tophe Jaffrelot and Surinder Jodhka are Gail Omvedt, Gopal Guru, Bharat Patankar and Anand Teltumbde. Except for Teltumbde none of these writers seem to reflect on caste in the larger matrix of the Asiatic mode of production. This essay in rethink­ing the caste question from Marx’s original formulation of the Asiatic mode of pro­duction goes beyond the above-stated thinkers. Along with this formulation one is also taking the understanding of the cultural and ideological superstructure of India from the Georg Lukacs-inspired genre of the problematic of the ‘reification of con­sciousness’. Caste is then understood as a form of reification—literally implying a dis­tortion and dehumanisation of humanity—and caste-consciousness understood as a reification of consciousness. Thus we transform Lukacs’s idea of the reification of pro­letarian consciousness in the era of late capitalism—a theme that Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School would take up in the analysis of the culture industry—to the rei­fication of mass consciousness in India. Sigmund Freud’s analysis of neurosis and psy­chosis would also emerge in the analysis of caste consciousness. In contrast to the liberal democratic version of secularism which by and large has merely paid lip service to secularism in India (the 2002 RSS sponsored anti-Muslim pogrom is just one example) and in direct and hostile opposition of the anti-secular fascist camp, we are claiming for a philosophical site that talks of radical secularism. I claim that the two sites, liberal secularism and radical secularism, are totally different and distinct. Radical secularism cannot thrive on categories borrowed from the liberal camp. By radical secularism one means a form of secularism that is rooted in class struggles, along with the programmes of the annihilation of caste and the struggle for socialism. Radical secularism is not merely satisfied with the school that talks of the mere separation of religions and politics. What happens in this version is that both religion (one means organised religions which involve caste and patriarchy) and politics (here we mean bourgeois politics) remain in peaceful coexistence. What we do is we involve a radical critique of both organised religions and bourgeois politics determined by the critique of political economy. We thus transform the classical Marxist dictum the economic base determines the political and ideological superstruc­ture into the new theme: the reified economic base of capitalism determines the deluded-estranged minds of both liberalism and fascism. This idea of the deluded- estranged mind we are taking from Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.This deluded-estranged mind is ‘alienated thinking’ and ‘abstract thinking’, ‘which has grown totally indifferent to all real determinations’.2122What we are claiming is that liberal secularism has become this form of alienated thinking and alienated politics. 21What one needs to do is relate the sites of organised religions and the political state in the era of late imperialism in permanent crisis and understand these as domains of estrangement. Organised religions and the political state become forms of violent alie­nated machines. Thus along with general doctrine of liberal secularism, both organised religions and the bourgeois state are understood as forms of estrangement and vio­lence, totally divorced from the working masses. What we get from the liberal demo­cratic understanding of secularism is that one has to separate two domains of human estrangement and violence—religion and the state. Liberal secularism does not want to deal with these two violent and alienated machines. It merely wants to separate them. Thus what liberalism wants to do is separate two violent machines. If liberal secularism is merely fixated with the political superstructure without taking into consideration the economic and social structure of society, it is becoming merely idealist in both form and content. Further by secularism in the liberal sense of the term, one means a form of political emancipation where politics is emancipated from the clutches of religion. In On the Jewish Question, Marx mentions political emancipation. Here he is talking of the difference between the anti-feudal revolutions (which overthrew feudal institutions and installed the bourgeois state) and human emancipation (or the communist revo­lution), which overthrows both class society and the state. Remember for Marx there can be no state that can be used for emancipatory reasons. I have repeatedly said this. One must note the theme of the smashing of the state. What is necessary to point out is that the theme of the smashing of the state is central to Marx from The Eighteenth Bru- maire of Louis Bonaparte to The Civil War in France. In the 1871 letter to Kugelmann, Marx talked of this smashing of the state, since the state is necessarily a machine ofvio- lence.For Marx, any attempt for human emancipation has necessarily to be outside the site of the political state.Now what liberal secularism does is that it does not want to smash the state as the machine of violence. It does not want to be involved in the ‘politics from below’. Instead it wants ‘politics from the above’ and thus wants ‘secularism from the above’. Liberal secularism thus becomes a form ofelitist upper caste Brahmanical secu- larism.2324The problem is that the liberals necessarily need a state mechanism. The tragedy is that the Indian Marxists made a serious error in not understanding Marx’s original philosophy of the state. Thus if Marxism thinks that it can retain the state along with both its ideological and repressive apparatuses (this is not only something that the Left Front led by the Stalinist Communist Party of India (Marxist) or the CPI(M) is doing in India, but also something that revolutionaries like Trotsky subscribed to) then it is clear that 23o ne is working on a non-Marxist problematic. And if for Marx the state has to be abol­ished, then the separation of state and organised religion would be simply meaningless. It would only mean the separation of two violent machines, which creates the delusion of a liberal free state, but without humanity being truly free. Consider this:The limits of political emancipation are evident at once from the fact that the state can free itself from a restriction without the human being really free from this restriction, that the state can be a free state without the human being a free human.25 Besides this theme that the truly free human is the basis of Marx’s philosophy of eman­cipation, there is another theme that Marx critiques—and that is the autonomy of reli­gion. Also note in the following quote that Marx here is not eulogising secularism (as liberal secularism) as we so oft think him to do. One must understand that for Marx the word ‘secular’ deals with the ‘profane’ and the ‘non-sacred’. Derived from the Laitin word saeculum, secularism’s original meaning (derived from the West European Christian context) is ‘century’, ‘age’ or ‘profane time’, that is distinct from theological time, or what Walter Benjamin calls ‘messianic time’.26The separation of powers that came into being after the bourgeois democratic revolutions, and thus the separation of the state from religion, was actually the Protestant doctrine of separation of theologi­cal-messianic time and profane-mundane time. By itself, devoid of the historicist and humanist context that historical materialism gives, it has no emanipatory meaning. Consider the following:We no longer regard religion as the cause (Grund), but only as the manifestation (Phanomen) of secular narrowness (weltichen Beschranktheit). Therefore we explain the religious limitations of the free citizens by their secular limitations.

We do not assert that they must overcome (aufheben) their religious narrowness in order to get rid of (aufzuheben) of their secular restrictions, we assert that they will overcome their religious narrowness once they get rid of (aufheben) their secular restrictions.27

Reading Secularism in India in the Economic Base of Caste

In a certain way that Louis Althusser had outlined in the method of reading Marx’s Capital (in his Reading Capital), we are likewise outlining the reading of the proble­matic of secularism situated in the caste-Asiatic capitalist mode of production in the dialectics of the ‘visible and the invisible’ that Althusser had highlighted.28Unlike Althuser, who did not take Marx’s theory of alienation seriously, we keep this theme at the background of this part on Marx’s methodology. Note here how Althusser’s idea of the ‘visible and the invisible’ is grounded in Marx’s motif of alien­ation. Note the problematic of the invisible (read alienation) in the social sciences: The invisible is the theoretical problematic’s non-vision of its non-objects, the invis­ible is the darkness, the blinded eye of the theoretical problematic’s self-reflection when it scans its non-objects, its non-problems without seeing them, in order not to look at them.Here there is an oversight, but an oversight ‘caught not only in the object, but of sight itself’.30This sight is estranged seeing, a form of sight that merely mimics outward appearances. Consider Marx here: This phenomenal form, which makes the actual relation invisible, and indeed, shows the direct opposite of that relation, forms the basis of all the juridical notions of both labourer and capitalist, of all the mystifications of the capitalist modes of production of all its illusions as to liberty, of all the apologetic shifts of the vulgar economists.31Regarding this methodological motif of the appearance-essence difference, we claim that what is visible in the discourse of the dominant practice of secularism in India is liberal secularism (not ‘people’s secularism’), just as in classical political economy what was visible was the concept of labour (not ‘labour-power’). A small borrowing from the methodological note from the history of political economy is necessary. We know the error that the classical political economists made: that labour creates value. Now we know that labour produces use values, but does not produce value. It is, as Marx would say, intervening in this discourse of Adam Smith and David Ricardo, that it is labour power that creates values. Now what Marx did to political economy we need to do in the discourse of secularism. Just as Marx went beyond clas­sical political economy, we need to go beyond classical (read ‘liberal’) secularism. For this a little note on method is necessary: Every new aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms of that science. This is best shown by chemistry, where the whole of the terminology is radi­cally changed about once in twenty years, and where you will hardly find a single organic compound that has not gone through a whole series of different names. Pol­itical Economy has generally been content to take, just as they were, the terms of commercial and industrial life, and to operate with them, entirely failing to see that by so doing, it confined itself within the narrow circle of ideas expressed by those terms. Thus, though perfectly aware that both profits and rent are but sub-div­isions, fragments of that unpaid part of the product which the labourer has to supply to his employer (its first appropriator, though not its ultimate exclusive owner), yet even classical Political Economy never went beyond the received notions of profits and rents, never examined this unpaid part of the product (called by Marx surplus- product) in its integrity as a whole, and therefore never arrived at a clear compre­hension, either of its origin and nature, or of the laws that regulate the subsequentd istribution of its value. Similarly all industry, not agricultural or handicraft, is indiscriminately comprised in the term of manufacture, and thereby the distinction is obliterated between two great and essentially different periods of economic history: the period of manufacture proper, based on the division of manual labour, and the period of modern industry based on machinery. It is, however, self- evident that a theory which views modern capitalist production as a mere passing stage in the economic history of mankind, must make use of terms different from those habitual to writers who look upon that form of production as imperish­able and final.32Since what are invisible in the discourse of classical secularism are caste and the Asiatic mode of production, one will necessarily have to make a break with the earlier model of secularism. So just as Marx discovered the concept of labour power (as the sole creator of value), we have to make visible the hidden context of caste and consequently create ‘terms different from those habitual to writers’ (as Engels states). What we get is a protocol of reading secularism in India that is different from the liberal context. And if, ‘every new aspect of a science involves a revolution in the technical terms of that science’ (to borrow again from the above quote of Engels), a revolution in the technical terms in contemporary political sciences in India is of utmost importance. My main thesis is that secularism in India, as liberal secularism, or ‘secularism from above’, is basically a rationalised upper caste Brahmanical construct freed from the rituals that Walter Benjamin had highlighted in his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. By ritual, one means not merely rites linked to divine duties, but a form of pre-capitalist fetishism where people are led to a form of bewitch­ment. Yet this form of ‘secularism from above’ predicated on parliamentary democ­racy, conspicuous consumption and the fetishism of commodities involves a form of ritual that modernity has not been able to tackle.Now in the debates on secularism, one has two basic forms of upper caste elite ideol­ogies of Brahmanism—(1) the ritualistic anti-secularist Brahmanical ideology as best represented by the fascist RSS and (2) the modern-rationalised, Brahmanical one as represented by the liberal democratic Congress Party. What now happens is that, under the genre of this form of secularism (as upper caste Brahmanical-liberal secu­larism), people are literally left out from politics as semi-feudalism was never annihi­lated, but in fact incorporated in the liberal framework. Whichever way (the ritualised fascistic or rationalised capitalist way), the working masses lose out. We instead argue that secularism has to be linked to material reality of Indian society and thus to both semi-feudalism along with the caste question as well as to the capitalist mode of pro­duction. Authentic secularism, as radical secularism, thus will have to deal with the programme of the annihilation of semi-feudalism and caste, but an annihilation that is not grounded in a bourgeois democratic revolution, but an annihilation which simultaneously involves an annihilation of capitalism itself. When we quoted Ambedkar in the beginning of this paper, we say that for Ambedkar, Brahmanism and capitalism are interlocked in a concrete social formation and that the struggle against caste-domination and the struggle for socialism are ‘simultaneous’ constituted within a permanent revolution. There are no ‘stages’ here—one does not free oneself from caste first and then, with the Darwin-inspired ‘evolution’ of society, free oneself from capitalism. We know that this was a Social Democratic fable that was dominant in the politics of the Second International and how communist militants like Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin and Trotsky had to fight against this tendency within the workers’ movement. Once one has taken this Marxist point of view, one needs to review the debates on secularism. We link this debate of secularism to the question of caste which itself is rooted in the larger genre of the Asiatic mode of production, a point that has simply eluded thinkers, from Ashis Nandy to Rajeev Bhargava. Because ‘secularism as such’ involves democratic politics and the creation of a mass that is not internally divided, we point to caste as this internally dividing and self-destroying line.Since we are linking secularism as authentic secularism as involving the annihilation of caste and semi-feudalism, a small note on the historical genealogy of caste is necess­ary. What we are saying is that, despite the terms ‘varna’ and ‘jati’ being part of the Indian historical lexicography, the modern term ‘caste’ is precise to define its charac­teristic. What we are saying is that the word ‘caste’ is derived from the Latin castus meaning ‘pure’, ‘segregated’, ‘cut off’, and is etymologically related to carere ‘to the process of cutting off. The cutting off is evident since the foundational myth in the Rg Veda.What we say is that, if caste implies the logic of ‘cutting off, it gets to be directly related to the dynamics of alienation that Marx kept central to his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. We not only relate this idea of alienation to the modern process of capital accumulation; we also relate this to pre-modern societies. One will need to point out the relation between alienation that arouses the feeling of loneliness, dread, anomie and helplessness with Freud’s concept of neurosis, psychosis and also the ‘uncanny’ (das Unheimlich) that raises the feeling of terror and hysteria. As stated earlier, our central understanding of caste is that it is to be understood in three overdetermined sites: (1) class, as ossified and frozen class, or what Ambedkar calls ‘enclosed class’;33(2) as an Asian form of race-stratification and thus casteism understood as an Asian form of racism; and (3) neurosis, psychosis and schizophrenia. As stated above, democracy and secularism are impossible in the arena of racism and neurosis-psychosis. In this era of caste-domination, it is the fascists who have mastered the macabre ‘art’ of manipulating caste as racism and neurosis-psychosis.Since caste as human alienation and the feeling of the uncanny has within it the dis­course of race, the problem of racism inherent in the dominant tradition of Indian culture and society has to be raised. The issue of secularism thus needs a radical overhauling. Now what seems to be mere political critique of liberal secularism, from a radical secularist perspective this turns into the core question of locating revolutionary subject positions in India. Given the fact that the bourgeois democratic revolution was not completed in India (as also in large parts of Asia), the ideology of pre-capitalist social formation domi­nated by the caste system with its inherent exploitation and violence, along with its culture of economic and cultural backwardness, the modern bourgeois class system would be interlocked with the caste remnants. And since we say that caste = class and class = caste determined by the social ontology of labour (despite their overdeter­mined contradictions and uneven oppositions), then we also say that secularism cannot be oblivious to the caste question. Whilst we are saying that caste is the funda­mental issue in India, we do not essentialise this. Instead we put this social formation central not only to India, but also to other Asiatic states. Marx says in Capital that Plato’s Republic was ‘merely the Athenian idealisation of the Egyptian system of castes’,35whilst Trotsky even said that the Asiatic form of caste system was also present in the USSR, which he linked to the bureaucratic Stalinist state.36Our claim is that caste is both a cacophonous as well as a silent counterrevolution that displaces the emergence of genuine secularism and democracy. Since democracy in India (especially driven by Gandhian ideology) glamorises what Marx once called ‘idyllic village communities’, that ‘restrain the human mind within the smallest compass’, we are linking this to the idea of caste as human alienation where people are literally cut off from one another—what Ambedkar calls ‘division of labourers’ that itself is governed by the draconian fetish of ‘graded inequality’. That is why we insist on highlighting the relation of Marx’s analysis of alienation along with Freud’s theory of neurosis and psychosis with R.D. Laing’s theory of the divided self and Theodor Adorno’s theory of the general regression of thinking. Radical secularism thus has to deal with this divided self and regressive thinking that emerges from this divided and deluded self. What this divided and deluded self has done is that it has now become totally fascist. We claim that caste involves a form of alienation and violence that Marx talked of, since caste as the alienated ‘cutting off of one human from the other is understood as being governed by the dictatorship of the upper castes. Since the warrior-priest tra­dition of the Rg Veda is being recalled by the Hindutva right-wing, one must caution against this dictatorship that is emerging in contemporary times. This dicta­torship is basically carried out through upper caste-village panchayats and fascist organisations, but also through the other possible means including through ‘demo­cratic' means like the dominant institutions of liberal democracy. Liberal democracy does not exclude this dictatorship of the upper caste elites. It also does not exclude the Hindutva fascist reinvention of the warrior-priest ideology, but uses this regularlyw ithin the ambit of liberal democracy. The continuous riots against Muslims even in the era of liberalism, not to forget violence against Dalits, are testimony that liberal democracy in India has not been totally blameless.What one has to understand is how the caste system (with its race-driven hierarch­ical system based on the ideology of purity and pollution), albeit radically modified in the age of late imperialism in permanent crises, structures minorities like the Muslims along with the traditionally oppressed castes to look like the ‘hellish other’ (to borrow Jean Paul Sartre’s term from a different context) that serves the interests of anti-demo­cratic, anti-secular and pro-imperialist forces. In this sense, secularism (not only as the separation of powers, but also in the Indic form of the equality of religions—sarva dharma samabhava—along with the idea of tolerance and respect) is not possible when caste, even in the Gandhian communitarian sense, remains. What liberalism in India did was that it never bothered to annihilate caste and the tremendous inequal­ities emerging thereon. Instead Indian liberalism took refuge in Gandhi’s Romanticism and glorification of the Indian village system with its caste system. If Ambedkar said that Gandhism is a ‘call of return to Antiquity’ as well as a ‘reanimation of India’s dread, dying past’,37then we say that Indian liberalism is also a call of return to Anti­quity, as well as a reanimation of India’s dread, dying past. It is this conservative char­acter that the Indian liberals nurtured, thus disabling the programme of the annihilation of the caste system and the construction of an authentic secularism. In this sense, what is called the ‘Hindu reform’ movement from Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) onwards that tried to create a model of ‘Hinduism’ mimicking the West European doctrine of a unified Christian religion has to be questioned. Along with this questioning one also has to question the ideologies of the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Smaj that tried to constitute a modern form of conservatism where they postulated the Vedas as advocating a monotheistic and egalitarian religion. Roy one must note was a member of the Freemasons and the role of the Masons in colonialism and imperialism, including Zionism, ought not to go unnoticed.Since Indian democracy (Nehru included) borrowed from the agenda of the refor­mist movement with its outward shell of egalitarianism and its kernel of the ‘dead, dying past’, we say that Indian democracy is basically a form of ‘conservative democ- racy’.38Whilst we claim that Roy despite his great learning produced a form of cultural conservatism, we say following Christophe Jaffrelot how Gandhi was the source of Congress conservatism.39What happens in India is that democracy has a cosmopolitan appearance and a conservative essence. This conservative essence remains because this social structure of caste and the domination of Brahmanical ideology were never seriously overhauled. Caste as inherited and hierarchical class status (or frozen classes, frozen in the sense of a clan system) would in this very strange way be the also the basis of parliamentary democracy that emerged since 1947 when India got freedom from the British Raj. Because caste is based on segregation that is sanctioned on religious grounds and built on the ideas of purity and pollution, secularism would imply a ‘blind secularism’ that completely shuts its eyes to social realities.

Caste, Asia and the Asiatic Mode of Production

In this historical materialist model based on the critique of political economy, the origins of caste as a peculiar form of social formation in South Asia is located. Since the foundation of an authentic people’s secularism is based only on the annihilation of these caste-clan communities that actively repress the processes of modernity and the labour movement, we are specifically studying caste in the larger genre of the Indic variant of the Asiatic mode of production. Here we would like to note that Marx did not think of the so-called ‘Eastern world’ as ‘timeless’ and ‘devoid of history’, many times said not only by Edward Said in his Orientalism, but also by Marxist thinkers like Irfan Habib. We have noted that Marx not only considers the dynamics of non-European societies, but also emphasises them. Remember that in the letter to Vera Zasulich he talks of the dynamism of the Russian communes, how they are revolutionary and can directly skip the capitalist mode of production, and thus how he celebrates the ‘archaic’ world.40We shall find a complex of social formations in the Asiatic mode of production where the communes were seen to be in a state of existence until the late 19th century along with the ruling classes who championed the ideology of purity and pol­lution. It in this context that the questions of ‘pure’ and the ‘impure’ shall govern our analysis. As we shall see, the totem and fetish of purity and the taboo of pollution are the determining grounds of analysis. In India it has been the tradition that the upper castes are led by the priestly castes (the Brahmans) accompanied by the warrior clans which are considered ‘pure’, whilst the working masses (the Sudras) are said to be ‘impure’. The Brahmans (in pre-capitalist India), besides being priests, were also scho­lars and ideologists, not to forget the interpreters of Dharma (the Hindu moral law). In modern India, the Brahmans would become the high priests of Indian democracy in total control of the Ideological State Apparatus, being the interpreters of Consti­tutional Democracy. What happens in ancient India, despite Buddhism (unlike in ancient Iran, for instance, where Zarathushtra as the messianic prophet of ancient Iran denounced this warrior-priests combine), is that the warrior-priests combine (with the help of the Vedic rituals) could institutionalise this form of domination, especially after thea nti-Buddhist counterrevolution heralded by Shankara (788-820 CE). Again what has happened is that, with the adoption of Savarkar’s model of Hindutva by the contem­porary government, the tradition of violence is being re-adopted. It must be noted that in his Essentials of Hindutva Savarkar reinvented this ancient Indo-Iranian warrior tradition (in opposition to Buddhism, which he thought to be ‘weak’ and ‘feminine’ and mainly in opposition to Islam which he declared to be inherently violent).41The fact that his thesis of Hindutva is a reinvention of violence is something to be remembered.It is in this site that one rethinks the caste question. A small note on the genealogy of caste is necessary. Since the social sciences have attempted to locate a manifold origin of caste, from the Indo-Iranian origins to the period from the rise of Buddhism to the Gupta period,its genealogy and structural analysis are necessary. One needs to understand this genealogy, in order to break the clannish-hierarchical communities such that real secularism is possible. The scientific point of view locates caste in the complex of social formations that is itself based on a form of labour process that produces surplus.43Removing caste from this space of historical social formations would only make the reading of both the caste question and the question of secularism extremely unscientific. Secondly attempting to locate caste exclusively as a conspiracy created by a specific social group could be erro­neous. What we claim is that caste is so unfortunately deeply rooted in Indian civilis­ation and intrinsically woven in India’s social fabric (and that though it is represented both theologically and ideologically in Hinduism), that its encounter with Buddhism and then with Islam, Christianity and modern capitalism did not allow the uprooting of this system. It seems that, despite Buddhism’s humanist and anti-Vedic worldview and despite Islam’s egalitarianism, the Buddhist and Muslim rulers not only did not challenge it, but used it for their own advantage. Irfan Habib, for instance, claims that not only in Brahmanism, but also in the times of Buddhism and Islam, caste was present.44The sources drawn by Habib will be of great help, although as we shall see, he does not want to link it with the Asiatic mode. He claim thats caste is linked not only to Brahmanism, but also to Buddhism, as also to Islamic rulers in India, despite both Buddhism and Islam’s ideology of egalitarianism.45How does one understand this irony that despite anti-caste religious ideologies (in Buddhist and Islamic times) castes have continuously persisted in Indian history? Recall Marx here, who talks of these caste-communities ‘that constantly reproduce themselves in the same form, and when accidently destroyed, spring up again on the spot and with the same name’.46What I have done is relate this type of history with Freud’s idea of neurosis as the eternal recurrence of the self-same trauma. It may just be possible that Muslim elites in India understood this neurotic version of the Indic version of the Asiatic mode of production where caste refuses to annihilate itself, that they never seriously challenged the caste system. It was only the phenom­enal form of caste namely idol worship that they critiqued. It should also be noted that Alberuni in his magnum opus India glorified the caste system as a role model to be followed: The kings of antiquity, who were industriously devoted to the duties of their office, spent most of their care on the division of their subjects into different classes and orders, which they tried to preserve from intermixture and disorder. Therefore they forbade people from different classes to have intercourse with each other, and laid upon each class a particular kind of work or art and handicraft. They did not allow anybody to transgress the limits of his class, and even punished those who would not be content with their class.47Since Iran from 1979 onwards has had a semi-fascist government ruling with its mes­sianic idea of the ‘theological state’, we need to have a look at the Iranian pre-Islamic model of Oriental despotism that the present semi-fascist government seems to be mimicking. It must be noted that these words (from the following quote) emanate from the mouth of Khausrau I, also known as Anushiravan, meaning ‘the immortal soul’ (501-579 CE), the emperor (Shahan Shah-i-Eran) of Sasanian Iran in opposition to the radical doctrine of Mazdak known as the prophet of communism in Iranian late antiquity, who preached a form of absolute equality and the abolition of property and the family system. Khausrau, the Oriental despot, is speaking to Mazdak the commu­nist. Come to modern Iran and substitute the emperor Khausrau for the ‘Aryan’ Aya­tollahs who chide the Iranian left for creating a new ideology of ‘community of women and goods’ (see the third line of the following quote). I am going into these Iranian texts since Iran already has a model of messianic fascism which India (albeit unwittingly) seems to be following. I am also going into these texts in order to understand Marx’s idea of the ‘whole series of inherited evils (that) oppress us, arising from the passive survival of antiquated modes of production, with their inevitable train of social and political anachronisms’.48Since we know that ‘we suffer not only from the living, but from the dead. Le mort saist le vif! We are seized by the dead!’,49we shall proceed into encountering this dead which refuses to die!What I am saying is that one needs to move into the realm of the living of Asian histories (rather than the neurotic dead) and consequently to re-think these living forces of people’s movements. What I am also saying is that modern rationality of the bourgeois nation-state stays blind to revolutionary histories, as if human emanci­pation began with West European bourgeoisdom. In contrast to this incorrect Eurocentric explanation, I am recalling class struggles in Asian history. Note this poli­tics of the unconscious that I am dealing with through the reading of Iranian history. Note the Iranian emperor’s disdain for Iranian communism of late antiquity: O seeker after wisdom! thou hast framed A new religion in the world and made Community of women and of goods.How will a father recognize his son, The son in like recognize his father?When every man is equal in the world, And great and little are no more discerned,Who then will serve and how can any rule? Who then will labour for us, thee and me And how shall good men be discerned from bad?When one shall die to who will appertain His house and goods when toiling slave and Shah Are equal? This will desolate the world; Such evil must not come upon Iran.When all are masters who will be servant? When all have treasures who will be treasurer?None of the leaders of the Faith spake thus, And thou art mad although thou hidest it,Thou leadest all mankind to Hell, and thou Accountest not all evil-doing wrong.50 The above quote signifying the state of inequality was one part of the Asiatic state doc­trine. But there is another part that talks of radical equality and the makings of the ‘ community of women and goods’. It is these two conflicting parts that need to be recorded: one of communist equality (which predates the European Enlightenment and the French Revolution) and the other of the theological state where religion and politics have to be united. As Alberuni says, ‘these twins, state and religion, are in perfect harmony, and their union represents the highest development of human society, all that men can possibly desire’.51Note the Oriental idea of the theological state. Its importance has to be highlighted since this theological despotic part of the state was never annihilated by the Asian liberals.Consider now the ancient doctrine of Iranian statehood (of the synthesis of religion and politics) which Iran has been practicing since 197952and which India now wants to emulate: Know that kingship and religion are twin brothers, no one of which can be main­tained without the other. For religion is the foundation of the state, and the state is the guardian of religion. The state cannot subsist without its foundation, and reli­gion cannot exist without its guardian. For that which has no guardian is lost, and that which has no foundation crumbles ... Know that there can never be in one kingdom both a secret chief in religion and a manifest chief in kingship without the chief in religion snatching away that which is in the hands of the chief in king­ship. For religion is the foundation and kingship is the pillar, and the possessor of the foundation has more claim to the whole building than the possessor of the pillar.53 What one needs to state is that this primacy of the theological state which was preva­lent in feudal Europe as well as in Asiatic pre-capitalist states had the fetish of ‘guar­dianship’ that is prevalent in both the Brahmanical-Indian tradition (which the RSS extols) and the Iranian Shiite doctrine (which the contemporary conservative state of Iran believes in). The question remains: ‘How do the radical secularists break the domination of ‘guardianship’ of the Iranian and Indian political elite?’ It is important to note that the idea of ‘guardianship’ lies in caste-stratification where the upper caste elites take the role of the ‘guardians’ of society.One will have to turn one’s attention to ontogenesis and phylogenesis of caste as anti-democratic clannishness and the domination of the theological Asiatic states. Along with the understanding of this genealogy one is also studying the fetishes for the so-called ‘Aryan purity’ (and the ‘guardianship’ of this politics of ‘Aryan purity’) that is springing up in India with its ideologies of Hindu supremacy and the mytho-poetics that the fascists have constructed in the battle of the ‘Aryans’ (read ‘angelic Hindus’) with the Semites (read ‘demonic Muslims’). These studies however are complex and cannot be reduced to a single reductionist terrain. I have stated in my book The New Militants that the origins of caste are complex and diverse, ranging from the versions from Kosambi to Habib and from Georges Dumezil to Gherardo Gnoli.54Historical analysis traces the domination of the Indo-Iranian military elites (the Indian Kshatriyas and the Iranian Rathaestars —literally ‘the wielders of the chariot’) in the Late Bronze Age with discovery of bronze and production of chariot as the vehicle for raiding pastoral communities. According to Gnoli the primary class struggle was between these warrior tribes (the Indian Kshatriyas and the Iranian rathaestars) and the agriculturalists (the Indian Vaisyas and the Iranian Vastryo.fsuyants).55To understand this class struggle in the ancient Indo-Iranian world whereby one understands the origins of caste, one needs to understand how the Indo-Iranian warrior-priests combine could dominate the agri­culturalists and the pastoral communities through the ideology-ritual ofYagna. Yagnaw as not merely a religious ritual. It was a mode of destruction of the surplus produced by the agriculturalists and the pastoral communities. What I am saying is that ‘guar­dianship’ exists only when the upper caste elites (the warrior-priests) suppress the working masses through their ‘magic’ and ‘ritual’. Anti-secularism deals with this ‘magic’ and ‘ritual’, whilst secularism deals with de-ritualisation.What I am also saying is that ‘ritual’ is constituted in terms of stratification of society into closed clan communities based on superiority and inferiority, purity and pollution. So how do we classify the caste system as signifying a form of racism? Consider thus Alberum who points to this race-based classification with regards the Indian castes. In his chapter ‘On the Castes, called “Colours” (Varna), and on the Classes below them’, in his magnum opus India, Alberum talks of the apparent ‘genius’ of the kings of ages gone by who invented the caste system to prevent the ‘disorder of intermixture’.56What we find is that pre-secular societies sur­rounded by ‘magic’ and ‘ritual’ were based on caste-segregation. Remember that this is idea of caste-segregation is the core idea in the Indian magnum opus Gita. Though there is a general family resemblance between the ancient Indian and Iranian class formations in antiquity, there is yet a difference between them, despite the classical translation of Firdausi’s Shahnama by George and Edmund Warner who claim that the Persian work Anjuman is caste. The Shahnama talks of the four Anjuman (literally ‘institutions’ or ‘assemblies’). Strictly speaking the Persian Anjuman is not equivalent to caste. Remember that, in the Firdausi quote, the Persian words are Anjuman and Guroh implying ‘assembly’, ‘congregation’, ‘troop’ and ‘band’. It is not related to the Hindu order based on purity and pollution where untouchability and genocide remain the essence of its system. It is imperative to state that the culture min­ister of the present BJP government (Mahesh Sharma) has talked of a new education and culture policy where ‘cultural pollution’ would be removed from society. By ‘cultural pollution’ he of course means modernity and secularism.Let us bracket the present fascists for the moment and go to Firdausi in order to see the genealogy of class formations in ancient Iran: Then to the joy of all he [Jamshid, my insertion, M.J.]57founded castesFor every craft; it took him fifty years, Distinguishing one caste as sacerdotal To be employed in sacred offices,He separated it from other folk And made its place of service on the mountainsT 58hat God might be adorned in quietude. Arrayed for battle on the other hand Were those who formed the military caste;They were the lion-men inured to war— The lights of armies and of the provinces—Whose office was the guard the royal throne And vindicate the nation’s name for valour. The third caste was the agricultural,All independent tillers of the soil, The sowers and the reapers—men whom none Upbraideth when they eat. Though clothed in rags,The weavers are not slaves, and sounds of chiding Reach not their years. They are freemen and labour Upon the safe soil from dispute and contest. What said the noble man and eloquent?‘Tis idleness that maketh freemen slaves’. The fourth caste was the artizens. They live By doing handicraft—a turbulent crew Who being always busied with their craft Are given much to thought.Consider the above quote from the Shdhndma where ‘separation’ of one social group from other social groups links only to the priests—they are separated from all other classes. It seems that even today the Iranian Ayatollahs represent this obnoxious ‘Aryan’ tradition of human alienation and segregation. Also consider that the Iranian peasants were considered ‘independent tillers of the soil’, just as weavers were said to be ‘free men’ who ‘labor upon the soil safe from dispute and contest’, along with the artisans who are depicted as ‘given much to thought’. This is unlike the Indian caste system that is based on the most de-humanised division of labour between physical labour that is said to be unclean and mental labour which was said to be of a higher level and thus which monopolises the process of thinking, or rather speaking. Clearly the differences between the ancient Iranian and the Indian models are apparent. Yet there is also another model found within the Asiatic mode of production, and that is the radical subaltern movement that emerged in late fifth century in Iran. This movement is called the Mazdakite movement (after the legendary founder Mazdak whom we just highlighted). When one talks of radical secularism, then one is not merely stuck with the model that emerged from the French Revolution. Instead one sees not merely radical movements, in the age of antiquity, but what is correctly described as communist movements in the times of the Persian Empire. What radical secularism has to do is not only to remember these revolutionary traditions,b ut also to understand how class conflict is inherent in non-elitist religions. One will thus have to put the narrative of class struggle in the realm of religion, instead of mut­tering angry phrases against religion. Consider Tha‘alibi’s account of the philosophy of the ancient Iranian communists. It must be noted that, whilst Iran had a communist movement in late antiquity, India never experienced a radical movement of that level. And this history of radical action is not, as if, dead. Ehsan Yarshater, after O.G. von Wesendonk, said that there are ‘parallels between some Mazdakite doctrines and those of the Druzes of Lebanon’.59Recall now Tha‘alibi’:Mazdak declared that God placed the means of subsistence (arzaq) on earth so that people divide them among themselves equally, in a manner that no one of them should have more than his share; but people wronged one another; the strong defeated the weak and took exclusive possession of livelihood and property. It is absolutely necessary that one take from the rich for giving to the poor, so that all become equal in wealth. Whoever possesses an excess of property, women or goods, he has more right than other.60 One more revolutionary rendering emerges in the works of Firdausi. Consider how Mazdak presents his communist view in late antiquity:Bread is the anti-dote for hungry men— An anti-dote not wanted by the full...Should not the corn in store be put to use? To hunger have a million succumbed,Whose deaths are due to idle granaries . The man of empty handIs equal to the man possessed of wealth . To right the world all men must have sufficient;The rich man’s plenty is abominable; The women, goods and houses are for all... 61What I am doing is leaving histories not merely to the levels of either memory or amnesia, but to a new form of historical recovery that is relevant not only for Iranian or Indian form of secularism, but a people’s secularism of the Asian Soviets, a secularism that is both anti-state and anti-civil society,62a secularism that is based on the abolition of the property system itself. Consequently by ‘Marxist secularism’ Imean the historisation and humanisation of society, which also can be re-phrased as the humanisation of history itself. This is the way the humanisation of history operates in the study of non-Western societies. Consider Marx, who talks of ‘the return of modern societies to a superior form of the ‘archaic’ type of collective ownership and collective production’.63One now locates this radical view of the ancient communes with the view that both Marx and Engels held on the Asiatic mode of production, where it was the state mechanism of the Oriental despot that was the principal contradiction to the labouring masses (especially the peasantry). What we are claiming is that any construction of a ‘people’s secularism’ should be based on the critique of the state, unlike the liberal secularists, who emphasise the state mechanism. Thus a ‘people’s secularism’ in Asia has to be based on the critique of the Asiatic state in particular and the state in general. Consider Engels:The absence of private property in land is indeed the key to the whole of the East. Herein lies its political and religious history. But how does it come about that the Orientals have not arrived at landed property, even in its feudal form? I think it is mainly due to climate, taken in connection with the nature of the soil, especially with the great stretches of desert which extended from the Sahara straight across Arabia, Persia, India and Tatary up to the highest Asiatic plateau. Artificial irriga­tion is here the first condition of agriculture and this is a matter either for the com­munes, the provinces or the central government. An Oriental government never had more than three departments: finance (plunder at home), war (plunder at home and abroad) and public works (provision at home and abroad).64 What Engels should have also added is the department of caste-stratification (plunder along with riots at home). What happens in the Indic variant of the Asiatic mode of production is the dominance of two sites: (1) the despotic state; and (2) village com­munities with their caste-stratifications. Remember that Nehru, for all his liberal ideas, romanticised the caste system as a ‘system based on services and functions an all- inclusive order without any common dogma and allowing the fullest latitude to each group’. Nehru’s romanticism goes on: caste allowed ‘equality and a measure of freedom; each caste was occupational and applied itself to its own particular work leading to a high degree of specialisation and skill in handicrafts and craftsmanship’.65Like Gandhi (who borrowed from the European Romantic reading of rural life), Nehru (despite his urbane sophistication and his dreams that dams would be the temples of India) too glamorised the caste-based village communities.What one needs to be understood is that the skill and craftsmanship was not so much of the Indian artisans and working classes, but of the Brahmanical control of the Ideologi­cal State Apparatus in India. If one form of this skilled thinkers and speakers that seem to jump from the 10th mandala of the Rg Veda are the skilled Indian liberals and fascists, there is also another form that exists in India in the form of the Stalinist Left and their Brahmanical oligarchs who simply refuse to look beyond Stalinism and liberalism.

Can Secularism be Possible in the Asiatic Mode of Production?

That is why we are saying that we need to be critical of the liberal secularists’ deficit analysis of caste (along with the biology-driven ‘Hindu supremacist’ ideology) and the complete amnesia regarding the question of the Asiatic mode of production. Our basis of our thesis of ‘people’s secularism’ is the critique of the abstract-universal theory of history, politics and ethics propounded by thinkers from Immanuel Kant to Francis Fukuyama, which the Indian liberal secularists are blindly mimicking. I claim that there can be no general theory of history, politics and ethics which the neo-liberal votaries of globalisation want to impose on the entire world. It was Stalin’s counter­revolution and manipulation of Marxism that led to this bizarre metaphysical theory of history, politics and morality disguised as Marxism (a theme that Fukuyama keeps central to his End of History and the Last Man). For Stalin capitalism was trans­formed into his version of socialism, which ought to be called ‘Modern Asiatic Despot­ism’, whilst exactly the opposite is the case for Fukuyama. For Stalin the USSR was the ‘end of history’, for Fukuyama it is liberal democracy that is said to be this apocalyptic ‘end of history’. Instead of this Eurocentric thesis (one should say ‘Biblical-messianic thesis’), we have to raise the importance of a more nuanced reading (one should say ‘historicist and humanist reading’) of non-Western societies and thus to develop a theory of secularism that emerges from concrete Asiatic conditions. As we saw in the earlier part of this essay, revolutionary movements are found in Asia (the Mazdakites in Iran are only one example). Thus to develop a people’s secularism for Asia should inculcate these radical traditions. The great class struggles in Asia have to be remembered along with the terrible Asiatic state. That is why we are insisting that a blind copying of liberal secularism from the ideological cranium of bourgeois Europe which flattens out revolutionary histories of the non-Western world is simply meaning­less for the working masses of Asia. Forgetting these revolutionary histories alienates the working classes from their own radical histories. This alienation leads to a cultural vacuum whereby the fascists are able to enter the discourses and life-words of the working classes. The ideology of Hindu supremacy is merely the ideological projection of this cultural alienation caused by liberal democracy. What needs to be stressed is that liberal democracy is not an antagonism to fascism, but merely a stage in the history of capitalism. In this sense liberal democracy and fascism are ‘twins’ that are not dialectically opposed, but as binaries are complementariness. Both need each other.What radical secularism claims is that a complete overhauling of the entire ideologi­cal superstructure of Asiatic semi-feudal capitalism along with the overhauling of the ideology of conspicuous consumption sponsored by late capitalism in crisis is necess­ary. Thus what one needs is a complete overhauling of the caste system and the ideo­logical myth of Indic, even so-called ‘Hindu greatness’, along with the overthrowing of capitalism. It is not merely that we argue against fascism and imperialism in the abstract (as the Established Left does), as if fascism and imperialism exist independent of pre-capitalist social formations and semi-feudal capitalism. One needs to link orga­nically the relation between global capital accumulation, the Indian elites and the ideology of dominance in India that appeared as a hideous pagan idol called ‘Hindu­ism’ and now appears the form of the monstrous warfare state called ‘Hindutva’. Radical secularism does not merely deal with religion and politics in the abstract. Instead it needs to link the imperialist capital accumulation with Hindutva, now emer­ging as the Indian ideology in dominance. The radical secularists have to struggle in every small measure with the Indian fascists. One thus needs to claim (as Ambedkar had said) that Hindutva is an ideology of fascism and war and that the ‘Holy Book’ of Hinduism that the RSS wants to promote as a ‘National Book’, the Gita, is only a ‘jus­tification of war’ and ‘a philosophical defence of war and killing in war’.One has to actively fight against this Indian counterrevolution that actively produces the reified consciousness that Lukacs had talked of in his History and Class Consciousness.To strike at this reified consciousness and the consequent attack on the Ideological State Apparatus of the RSS, one needs to articulate how this Ideological State Appar­atus produces not only this melancholia that Walter Benjamin had talked of in his study of the rise of fascism in Germany. Instead one has to talk of the construction of what we call after Fredric Jameson as the ‘hysterical sublime’67—a sublime that far transcends what Immanuel Kant mentioned his Critique of Judgment a terrible and terrifying sublime that is destroying the capacity to resist fascism. This ‘hysterical sublime’ now understood as the ‘terrible sublime’ has become totally fascistic. The hysterical sublime in its infantile stage once destroyed the spirit of popular secularism in India. Now as a mature adult it crushes all desire for revolution. The hys­terical sublime is found in New Delhi as also in the streets of India. These places have become the Indic Gazas where Muslims are being targeted by the cacophonic counter­revolution. The hysterical sublime is found in the psychotic screams of ‘love jihad’. Yet the hysterical sublime as a necessary part of the global accumulation of capital is also found in Washington and Tel Aviv. We get thus two forms of the hysterical sublime: (1) the Big Brother Christian-Zionist hysterical sublime of Washington and Tel Aviv; and (2) and the junior partner who is found in India wearing their traditional Khakhi- coloured fascist uniforms.That is why we say that radical secularism is not a project of liberalism. Instead as ‘secularism from below’ it is an act of the socialist revolution. It has to confront caste, the entire capitalist system and imperialism. And this the liberal will never do.