Documents of ADATS - Book 5

Political Economy of Bagepalli Taluk (June 1985)

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Partly because of ADATS’ 7½ years involvement in the taluk and more importantly because of developments in the subjective and objective conditions of the region and the overall political atmosphere due to state and national developments, a sharper class consciousness is now developing in the peasantry.

3½ decades back when the united peasantry started its organised struggle against very powerful feudal lords, this consciousness was clouded by liberal, caste and charismatic considerations. Thereby there was no need for a clear and critical analysis and ideological commitment to develop in either the ranks or the leadership of the Ryot Sangha. Their struggle was led by populist slogans and spontaneity.

This influenced the character and content of the peasant economy that evolved in the taluk. Opportunism masked under a liberal argument of the united peasantry emerged and the upper middle class rich peasants dominated the countryside in land and wage relations as well as in village and taluk level politics after destroying the feudal lords’ base.

The taluk intelligentsia which came from this rising class and was tempered by anti-feudal struggle fell victim to this opportunism and chose to ignore the existence of classes within the ranks of the politically united peasantry and the strong antagonistic class contradictions that began to surface in the countryside. As a result, a theory based on the reality of the objective conditions, capable of understanding and leading the peasantry did not arise. This ensued in the Ryot Sangha eroding a sizeable portion of its militant base.

Only one shrewd bourgeois force, the ruling party, was able to understand this changed political economy of the region, more out of cunning than through any analysis, and react quickly, projecting itself as a champion of the poor peasantry for selfish electoral purposes of its own.

Still unable and even unwilling to come to grips with the new reality the peasant leadership began to attribute coarse motives for the poor peasant’s disgruntlement, further alienating them and in actual effect furthering the cause of the ruling party which was capitalising on the confusion.

Very soon the loose opposition in the taluk started unwittingly taking a very dangerous reactionary position with the ruling party pretending to support the progressive, repressed productive forces in the countryside. This became a national phenomenon and Bagepalli taluk was not spared in spite of the Left leading the opposition here.

At the same time the ruling party was incapable of (and did not even remotely wish to) offering the theoretical leadership to entail the coolies to emerge as a force capable of shattering the peasant economy and positing a serious challenge to capitalism and its bourgeois rule. Neither were organisational structures provided to channels and discipline the disgruntlement of the coolie class in any constructive way.

Upstarts in the coolies revolted but once again failed to come up with an overall class analysis and offer a programme to the coolies. This was partly because their very sincerity could be questioned. Their affected concerns were soon exposed when the organisation they created started collaborating, first covertly but very soon openly, with the bourgeois ruling party and the ruling party started using them as safety valves for disgruntlement while purposely pursuing a policy of accentuating social antagonism in the countryside.

In their utter frustration and inability to come to grips with the new changed reality the older generation of the taluk’s intelligentsia started offering valid but hopelessly incomplete slogans based on macro realities, emphasising the greater truth that capitalism and its ruling class, the bourgeoisie, were the true enemies of the peasantry. This was more in the form of justifications rather than as a serious attempt to understand. So the slogans failed to bring the small and poor peasantry under the Left led opposition’s fold.

To a large extent this malady existed in the whole country. In Bagepalli taluk the leaders still dwelt in the memories and nostalgia of past experiences and past realities of at least 2 decades old and began to grow bitter towards contemporary realities.

After the Emergency, in the late ’70s, the ruling party’s till then subtle attempts to court the minorities became very blatant. A new generation of rural intelligentsia started emerging. They intuitively knew that while the older generation’s analysis was not wrong, it was neither complete nor applicable.

At this historical stage in the political development of the taluk ADATS was formed. ADATS became a forum for this new generation to meet, discuss, act and reflect. Very soon a new analysis of the taluk, recognising the peasantry not as a united mass of ‘people’ but as fractured into classes and polarising into 2 main classes — the rich and middle peasant classes on the one side, and the small and poor peasant classes on the other — emerged. At the same time the elders’ stand recognising the bourgeoisie as the main enemy of the middle, small and poor peasant classes was not refuted.

For the first time the discontent of the coolies (small and poor peasantry) could take a constructive course in struggle since a critical analysis was being offered to their class in relation to the rest of society — i.e. in relation to the middle peasants, the rich peasants and the bourgeoisie.

The relevance of this analysis and its acceptance by the wisdom of the masses accounts for the grass root evolution and ready acceptance of the 3 working principles of economic contradiction, social neutrality and political unity between the Ryots (middle peasantry) and the coolies, as well as the rapidity with which the call to form Coolie Sangha Units in the villages caught on.

The organisational structure suggested by ADATS was village level CSUs as opposed to the Ryot Sangha’s taluk level, broad based, informally structures, sporadic ‘unity at times of need’ and this received a ready acceptance because of the particular and peculiar nature of Ryot-Coolie contradictions that differ in form, content and extent from one village to another. Also since the vigil of the coolies is more constant and continuous than that of the Ryots, the mass organisation for them had to be more active on a day to day basis.

This new analysis led to another major change from the previously held view in its application. Propounders of the Ryot Sangha had unquestioningly accepted the leadership of the upper middle rich peasantry. But we departed radically in recognising that it is the coolie class which has to give leadership to both, the coolies as well as Ryots, and that we the intelligentsia have a role in making this coolie class aware of its potential and historic role. We will elaborate on the material base to substantiate this position in the next part of this analysis.

Today the coolies are beginning to feel the need for an apex taluk level body but without in any way infringing on the importance and role of the village level CSUs which will continue to analyse and tackle problems at a grass root level. ADATS had recognised this need as early as 5½ years back when we declared one of our important objectives to be the setting up of the BAGEPALLI COOLIE SANGHA.

But there inevitable has been a time gap between the consciousness of the masses on the one hand and that of the intelligentsia on the other. While we can foresee and accelerate the pace of realisation, only when these 2 consciousness meet on specific issues can there be a translation into effective action.

Yet another issue on which ADATS was clear for the past 2 years was the need to expand and cover all the villages of Bagepalli taluk. Today this need is being felt by the coolies now that they are seriously involved in the task of building up the BAGEPALLI COOLIE SANGHA. Most of the cadre in these 30 villages see a dangerous gap between the class consciousness that is developing in the taluk’s coolies and the village level structures (the CSUs) which exist in only about 30 villages of the taluk’s 200 and odd.

From January 1986 ADATS plans to start working in another 60 villages of the taluk.