– Periyar E.V. Ramasamy
Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani
The laborers are in such a state today for no other reason that that they were born as Shudras. Are there any Brahmins who plough the soil? Do the Brahmins work with ploughs? No? How did they become a non-working class? Because as Brahmins, they are born into a caste that doesn’t need to work but can sit and eat. We are born as workers. Our work makes someone else flourish. We are lower-caste or Shudras. According to this system, we are workers because we were marked as such by birth. Without confronting this, what is the point in just talking about the working class again and again? I’m asking this question to our communist heroes. Isn’t it their responsibility to question the fundamentals of this discrimination? Instead they brand the people who talk about this discrimination or the reasons of this discrimination as regressive and classist. Is it fair?
If the communists claim that they are simply doing what has been followed in other countries, it is wrong. There is a huge difference between this country and others. There are no Brahmins or Paraiyars in other countries. There are no Gods, no religion, no culture, no practices that served as the foundation for such a caste discrimination. The division of humans on this land as Brahmins and Paraiyars, where the Brahmins are the upper caste and the Paraiyars are a lower caste, is not known in other countries. Communists of other countries make their plans depending on the state of affairs and the nature of society in those countries. How is it fair to imitate the plan for another country in our very different situation, thinking that it would fit?
Someone told me this recently. People from other countries do not know about the structure of this society nor what happens here. If people of today are unaware of the problems and issues here, how is it possible that Marx or Engels from a previous time could have known this?
Not only do they not know of this, they wouldn’t have imagined that there would be a country with such an arrangement where people born into one caste would get all benefits and people born into a different caste would be put through misery all their lives. When this is the case, just think how fraudulent it would be to say that their words should be exactly put into practice here.
Ask (Josef) Stalin to say the words ‘Paarpaan’ (Brahmin) or ‘Paraiyan’. I don’t think he can even pronounce them right. Because there is no such differentiation in his country.
Comrades! Let me tell you another thing; Stalin has said recently “India needs to first have social reform and achieve social progress for communism to be born.”
When I said the same thing, my dear communist friends blamed me for not knowing communism. Now Stalin has said the same thing. I’m eager to know what the communists have to say about it.
I’m not against communism or socialism. I have more commitment and interest in communism and socialism than others. But we must have a communism and socialism that is adapted to this country’s social needs. Unless and until the superiority of the Brahmins and Brahminism, which are most powerful and are fundamentally opposed to socialism or communism, are abolished in this country, communism or socialism cannot form here. Instead only Brahminism will get strengthened.
Who heads the communist or the socialist party of this country? Only the Brahmins talk of communism or socialism. Who are they to teach communism to us? How can we believe that the communism they preach will change the discrimination in our lives?
Despite knowing this, if you think that speaking out against caste differences is regressive and classist, what is it but deception?
I challenge the communists to say “It is not right that the brahmins are upper caste”. Likewise it is wrong that the others are lower caste. Let them also say that they will burn in the fire everything that is foundational for such discrimination. I will welcome that. But without doing that, if they say that we should not talk about these issues at all, what can we achieve then? How can we bring communism here?
Periyar’s speech at a public meeting at Perambur on 2-1-1953. First published in Viduthalai on 04-01-1953.
Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 9: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (3). [Periyar Repository 9: Caste-Untouchability Part (3)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam. 253-256.