In June 1985, after 7½ years of experiential learning with Coolie struggles, we articulated our take on the political economy of Bagepalli. This provided the theory and raison d'être for our ground breaking organisational work for the next two and half decades.
After that, we began to question the relevance of our work in an altered post-feudal political economy. Now that small and poor peasants had come out of feudal clutches, would the Coolie Sangha get fossilised into an institution that limped on, simply because it could afford to do so? Had ADATS now finally run out of steam in this new, ugly and unrecognisable reality?
We knew that the answer lay in once again developing an applicable understanding of what was happening around us. But, as we readily admitted, we were numbed and perplexed. Just then, out of the blue, came COVID-19. In spite of being heavily engaged during the pandemic, those terrible months offered us the time and space to read, discuss and critically introspect.
By May 2022, when the all-clear whistles were finally blown, ADATS started to articulate our take on the current political economy. We argued that decentralised solutions in a decentralised economy was the only sustainable way forward for society, the world, and our country. Please see the first 4 pages of our paper.
Over a 17-month period, ADATS has embarked on cadre training/conscientisation for more than a thousand Coolie Sangha functionaries through monthly meetings, every Saturday in a different taluk.
Each session starts with a 60-75 minutes presentation. Though precise Telugu translations are used, conversational expressions immediately follow, thereby repeating every single point in the colloquial tongue. My talks are heavily interspersed with examples from their everyday lives, as well as anecdotes and observations from our own 54 yearlong involvement in the region, with the very same caste-class.
In every single meeting, in every single taluk, more than 250 people listen in pin drop silence. Not a mobile ring, no one takes a bathroom break, not a single interruption. This is followed by 2-3 hours of Q&A, clarifications, elaborations and discussions. Responses and reactions are varied:
Google translations of our "talking points", the notes used to deliver the speeches, are distributed to every single village functionary through WhatsApp. Many also make video and audio recordings and these are distributed in their circles.
In our Monday Staff Meetings, we receive feedback on general reactions as well as daylong meetings that are held at their Gram Panchayats for other CSU Members to think, question and learn. Many expressions and phrases that I use have crept into their everyday vernacular. Apparently, there is also quite a bit of good-natured mimicking of my strained (mis)pronunciations of Telugu words!
We laboriously prepare the next month's talking points for a few hours every day, Sundays through Fridays, and struggle to practice the pronunciation of precise Telugu words. Please click on the left panel for the 13 talking points.
We have consciously avoided electoral and party politics in order to not get diverted from presenting a theoretical framework. Their grasp of the political economy and, especially, phases/stages in capitalism — first as a liberating force that destroyed feudalism, then crony capitalism, and now oligarchy — is turning out to be quite astute.