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Social and Political Thought in Modern

A Study in D.K.Bedekars Creative Marxism

Dissertation submitted to Jawaharlal Nehru University in partial

fulfilment for the requirement of the degree of




Introduction ............................................................................................ 5
D.K.Bedekar-A Creative Marxist Public Intellectual ...................................... 5
Socialist Humanism as the Milieu of D.K.Bedekars Thought ...................... 7
Creative Marxist Intellectual Discourse in Maharashtra ............................. 11
Need to Situate D.K. Bedekar in Socialist Humanist Thinking ................... 15
Convergence between Abrahmani Tradition and Marxism .......................... 16
Scheme of Chapters............................................................................................ 18
Methodology ....................................................................................................... 20
Chapter-1............................................................................................... 21
D.K.Bedekars Analysis of 19th century Dharma Vichar
(Socio-Religious Thought) in Maharashtra-An Overview ................
An Outline of D.K.Bedekars views on 19th century Dharma Vichar ......... 23
D.K.Bedekars Assesment of M.G.Ranade ..................................................... 27
Sarvajanik Satyadharma and Parthana Samaj Phule and Ranade ................. 29
D.K.Bedekar on the Principle of Divine Providence .................................. 34
D.K.Bedekars Critique of Tilaks Gita Rahasya.............................................. 37
D.K.Bedekar on Christianity and Bhakti ......................................................... 39
D.K.Bedekar and Acharya Javadekar-A Brief Comparison ......................... 42
Contemporaneity of 19th century Reformist Humanist Thought ............... 43
Neeti over Dharma- Primacy of Social Ethic over Religious Morality .........................44
Going Beyond Religion through Public Engagement with Religious Belief .................46

Chapter 2 ............................................................................................... 48
Socialist Humanism and D.K.Bedekars conception of
Dharma Paryayi Shraddha .........................................................................
Major Themes in D.K.Bedekars perception of Socialist Humanism ......... 49
Recovery of Human essence and difference with Vinobas Sarvodaya .........................51
Anti-Innatism/Primordialism and centrality of Practice to human life .......................53

Socialist Humanism and Freedom of the Human Individual .........................................54
Centrality of Critique of Religion to Socialist Humanism ...............................................57

D.K.Bedekars Conception of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha ............................... 58

Shraddha as a Foundational Understanding for Human Practice .................................60
Centrality of Human Social Practice to Dharma Paryayi Shraddha.................................63
Necessity of Shraddha beyond Reason and Moral Conscience ........................................64
Inadequacy of Reason and Conscience as the foundation ...........................................65
Towards a Non-Alienated Humanist Foundation ............................................................66

Principle of Maanuski and Humanist Foundation for Social-

Ethical Life ........................................................................................................... 68
Alienation/Dehumanisation under Religious Faith .........................................................70
Yatu-Nirbhar Hindu Dharma and Problem of Social-Ethical Life ..................................72
Caste-Bound Tolerance as a Hindrance to establishment of Humanism ....................74

Humanist Conception of Social-Ethical Life consistent with ...................... 75

Dharma Paryayi Shraddha ................................................................................... 75
Recognition of Finitude as a condition for the realization of Human Values ...............76
Metaphysics of Withdrawal to Active-Engagement with Human Actuality ..............78
Centrality of Practice to the humanist conception of Social Ethical Life .......................79

Chapter 3 ............................................................................................... 81
D.K.Bedekars Creative Marxism and Interface with
Gramsci and Ambedkar..........................................................................
D.K.Bedekars Vision of Socialist Project ........................................................ 82
Myth of Janata Janardan and Critique of Spontaneity .....................................................82
Messianism and Enfeeblement of Masses ..........................................................................84
Possibility of Peaceful/Non-Violent Social Transformation ...........................................86
Necessity of Cultural Revolution.........................................................................................88
Democracy as a Socialist Project ..........................................................................................90
Political Praxis and Transformation of Human Life .........................................................91

Antecedents of D.K.Bedekars thought in Gramscian Marxism ................. 94

Ambedkars Critical Dialogue with Communists ....................................... 100

Ethical Argument for Social Revolution in Annihilation of Caste..............................103
Questions posed to Communists by Modern Interpretation of Dhamma ...................106

Argument for a Dialogue between Liberals and

Communist/Socialist ....................................................................................... 109
Conclusion .......................................................................................... 113
Bibliography ....................................................................................... 117


D.K.Bedekar-A Creative Marxist Public Intellectual

This work seeks to review and analyse the contributions of D.K.Bedekar (1910-
1973) to the development of creative Marxist thinking in Indian conditions.
D.K.Bedekar (henceforth DKB) was a prominent Marxist thinker from
Maharashtra who has contributed significantly to the philosophical-intellectual
discourse in Marathi through his contributions in the fields ranging from Critique
of Religion to Literary Criticism. Through the 1930s and 40s DKB was an active
member of the then undivided Communist Party of India and even after his
resignation on Ideological-Political grounds in 1950 he maintained a lifelong
active fraternal relation with the Progressive-Transformative Social-Political
Movements in Maharashtra. In fact this engagement was an important factor in
shaping his intellectual endeavours and one finds an organic unity of
understanding and changing the society in his works. Most of his writing is in the
form of interventions in debates as a public intellectual whose task was not to
evolve a coherent system but to shape and reorient progressive political-
intellectual discourse. Primary concerns in DKBs thought pertain to critique of
religion-Dharma Chintan or Dharma Vichar and evolution of a humanist
conception of social-ethical life consistent with socialist project and in our work
we shall focus on the same.

One aspect of DKBs creative Marxism as against the dogmatism or orthodoxy

prevalent amongst the communists in his times is the humanist core of his
understanding of Marxism which is consonant with the global trend in Socialist
Humanism. Other aspect of his creativity is in his open dialogue or engagement
with the prevalent intellectual-political strands in Maharashtra and through an
open dialogue to enrich the content of socialist project. First aspect is significant

because DKB seems to have arrived at this understanding despite the relative
inaccessibility of socialist humanist debates and literature being produced in
USSR and Eastern European Peoples Democracies in the wake of De-
Stalinization as well as the heterodox Marxist thinking in West. Amongst the
Communists in India the humanist understanding of Marxism would fleetingly
surface only in the works of Progressive Literary and Cultural activists and that
too was marginal to the overall communist movement. Therefore analyzing the
humanist core of DKBs understanding of Marxism can provide some insights
into the possible trajectories of Socialist Humanism responding to the Indian
conditions. In the context of the historical failure of the Socialism devoid of
humanist content (emerging from the mechanical understanding of Marxism) and
the increase in the different forms of social barbarisms this assumes particular
salience. Second aspect of creativity is linked to the first one in so far as it points
towards the possible factors that would have shaped DKBs humanist
understanding of Marxism. However it also highlights non-sectarian character of
DKBs vision of Socialism. Rationale behind the dialogue or engagement with the
prevalent intellectual strands is in the fact that these strands emerged as a
response to the objective conditions of the society or the central questions before
the society. If socialism has to respond to these conditions and questions,-and
without doing so it cannot find roots in specific social cultural conditions- it must
engage with the existing formulations of these questions since they entail either a
true setting of these problems or even the partial/rudimentary solution. This
approach posits the necessity of envisioning socialism in continuation with the
progressive strands of thought in Indian intellectual tradition and takes up the
problems posed in these traditions for their definitive resolution. Having argued
for in this manner socialism is posited as the objective necessity emerging and not
a mechanical imposition.

Before introducing the scheme of chapters in our work we consider it necessary to

comment more on DKBs position with respect to the intellectual tradition in

Maharashtra and also review the currents in Socialist Humanism that resonate
with his thought.

Socialist Humanism as the Milieu of D.K.Bedekars Thought

DKBs affirmation of Socialist Humanism coincides with the great upheavals in
International Communist Movement and Marxist-Socialist Discourse after
Stalins death and particularly after Khrushchevs De-Stalinisation speech in the
20th congress of the Communist Party of Soviet Union in 1956. By then DKB had
moved away from the Communist Party and started moving independently
towards a humanist understanding of Marxism. Even the currents of socialist
humanism that developed following 1956 did not emerge sui generis but indeed
got an impetus in the period of Khrushchev Thaw. Another major factor that
aided these developments was the publication of Marxs early writings and
especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts which opened up the
avenues for a Marxist Philosophy of Humans (Philosophy of Man). Publication of
Gramscis prison writings since late 50s was also a major influence that shaped
the general trend of socialist humanism. It should be noted that there is no one
authoritative position of Socialist Humanism and it derived from diverse sources
such as creative thinking in soviet academia and CPSU following Khrushchev
thaw emergence of New Left in Western European academia and dissidence
outside as well as inside the ruling communist/workers parties in the peoples
democratic regimes of eastern Europe such as Poland, Yugoslavia and Hungary.

With the availability of Marxs early writings the theme of alienation of humans
from their essence and the recovery of human essence as overcoming alienation
affirmed the universal humanist vision behind socialist/communist project. This
reading of Marx provided a strong critique of economic determinist interpretation
of Marxism and socialism as the later works of Marx concerning with political
economy could now be read in the light of early writings. The issue of the status
of Young Marxs early writings with respect to mature Marxs later writings has
been a source of lively (and also bitter) debate among Marxists. Instead of

favouring Young Marx over Later Marx (or vice versa) the position articulated by
Evald Ilyenkov, Adam Schaff , Maurice Cornforth et al that later marxs writings
need to be seen as a development or further refinement of the early writings seems
more plausible. (Schaff 1970) (Cornforth 1972) (Ilyenkov 1967)To show this
requires an exercise of textual comparisons and analysis which is beyond the
scope of this work and has been carried out most succinctly in Mariia Petrosyans
work on Humanism. (Petrosyan 1971) This line of argument posits that unless
Marxs later work, most significantly Capital, are seen in light of his essential
humanist position then it would remain just an analysis of capitalist economy and
would lose it ethical-actionable i.e. revolutionary content. Therefore Marxism
must not be seen simply as a science of capitalist mode of production or
explication of the iron laws of the history but espousing a vision of the realisation
of humanism with the goal of the achievement of human freedom or that
development of human energies which is an end in itself. Therefore Marxs later
works are as much concerned with the dehumanisation or impersonalisation of
human relations and analyses the factors causing this dehumanisation (and insofar
as knowledge of the problem is half way towards its solution, contributes to the
way of overcoming these factors). Shunning economic determinism is also related
to criticising Mechanical Materialism which has been another prominent feature
of Socialist Humanist thinking. In fact economic determinism is a form of
mechanical materialism which denies the necessity of the task of raising the level
of consciousness of workers and masses at large. This position had been
emphasised by Lenin himself from What is to Be Done to his polemics against
second international and in this sense a current of socialist humanism meant going
back to Lenin to correct Stalinist distortions. This line of thinking foregrounded
the question of human agency and the necessity of forging the consciousness of
masses for them to attain the position of an active subject from being a passive
object. This thinking was also buttressed by Marxs early writings where the
vision of human activity as conscious and purposive is seen as a species-specific
feature and the same is present in the human-nature dialectic in capital vol.1. This
active side of humans is absent in mechanical materialism and that fails to note

that the social relations are products of human activity and thus their
transformation necessitates a conscious human activity (Schaff 1970). (Fromm
2004) However this position is not a voluntarist position-which did emerge in
response to Stalinism -especially in New Left- which would deny the objectivity
of social relations altogether. Social relations which humans enter into are
products of their own activity and yet stand outside/above them, in this sense the
model of alienation in EPM is not only about the relation of worker to her
products but of the general relation between humans and nature. This line of
thinking is developed in E.V.Ilyenkovs philosophy of ideal (Bakhurst 1991)
(Ilyenkov 2012) and interestingly DKB ( probably because of his study of Hegel)
arrives at a similar position when he posits the conception of Viraat Vishwa (
objective reality or nature) and Mannush Vishwa ( humanised reality) in his
analysis of shraddha. (Bedekar 1995) Following this argument we can see the
centrality of human agency in shaping human history thus far (for history
conceived as the entire material-spiritual culture of humanity would not be
possible otherwise) and thus it would be a sine qua non of building socialism
which is a higher stage of human history.
We should also note here in passing that humanist understanding of Marxism led
to its situation in the tradition of enlightenment and in so called western
tradition. It was in the context of the division of West and East that was more than
geographical an ideological one, where West was identified with Liberal
Capitalism and East with Socialist/Peoples Democratic regimes. Humanist
Marxists such as Adam Schaff or Eric Fromm emphasised Marx as a product of
enlightenment and saw socialism/communism as the consummation of
enlightenment project which can be summed up in the ideals of French revolution
and assertion of human autonomy from the ecclesiastical. (Schaff 1970) (Fromm
2004) This position in theory would have been acceptable to official Marxism as
well but the political implications that would follow would not have been. It
would mean taking the questions of Liberty, Individuals happiness, Individuals
spiritual-cultural development and Democracy which were then posed primarily
in the liberal tradition and were either brushed aside or glossed over amongst

official Marxists. Having posited a continuum between enlightenment tradition
and Marxism, Humanist Marxists took up these questions as their own and posed
them as important questions awaiting a Marxist resolution. This understanding
broadens the ambit of socialism beyond the socialisation/collectivisation of
property-which is seen more as an initial condition than the end in itself.
E.V.Ilyenkov argues that the socialisation of property especially in the context of
massive technological transformation is inconceivable without democracy as its
own logic would necessitate the active involvement of every individual in the
management of social affairs. (Ilyenkov 1967) Ilyenkov also relates the need for
democracy to the real and objective need of all round development of humans as
opposed to the professional cretinism associated with the division of labour.
(Ilyenkov 1967) In doing so Ilyenkov is positing democracy as the condition for
the fullest development of individual human capacities and in turn positing this as
the goal of socialism and communism. According to Ilyenkov the question of
building a communist society amounts to the converting of each individual from a
one-sided professional from a slave of the division of labor system into an all-
around personality, a real master (proprietor) of the material and spiritual culture
created by all mankind. (Ilyenkov 1967) We can see how this is a departure
from economism that we have discussed earlier.
Adam Schaff brings out the operational political aspects of freedom/liberty under
socialism-apart from the philosophical aspects of freedom- and relates it to the
question of human individuals happiness. Schaff argues that, every humanism
presupposes a theory of happiness and admits that there is and will be
unhappiness even under socialism or even communism. This question cannot be
glossed over by positing collective or social happiness as ultimately it is a
subjective matter of an individual person. (Schaff 1970) Schaff argues that
socialism does not concern itself primarily with a particular vision of happiness
but with identifying and removing the causes of human unhappiness/suffering.
Beyond this the individual has the freedom to choose a path of happiness and no
particular path should be imposed or predetermined by the state or society as a
collective. (Schaff 1970)This position resembles a de-ontological liberal position

where no particular conception of good is imposed upon the individual. However
realisation of happiness hinges upon ensuring that it doesnt lead to unhappiness
of others would necessitate an ethic of reciprocity which is indispensable for
socialist humanism. Socialist Humanist thinkers like Erich Fromm engaged with
the ethical questions of human life and commented on the generalised crisis
before humanity ( in the context of the threat of nuclear war, consumerism leading
to making individuals automatons and loss of a universal conception of good)
which requires an ethical response. (Fromm 1990) However socialist humanism
does not entail an outside ethical injunction or supplement into Marxism but
derives an ethical vision implicit in Marxism especially in the light of Marxs
early writings as seen before. (Cornforth 1972) (Fromm 1990)
This brief review has focussed on certain themes in socialist humanist thought
that resonate with DKBs concerns. It would form the backdrop before which we
can place DKBs own understanding of Socialist Humanism which we shall
review in subsequent chapters. This apparent detour was necessary to see how
DKBs thought moves along the similar concerns at international level and what
specific forms it takes in Indian conditions.

Creative Marxist Intellectual Discourse in Maharashtra

If one bears in mind G.P.Deshpandes remark (Deshpande 2009) that the history
of India and particularly the world of ideas necessarily has to be the history of
nationalities and thus the world of ideas in national languages need to be studies
specifically then the necessity of reviewing DKBs thought is underscored further.
DKB was part of the post-independence intellectual milieu in Maharashtra where
thinkers-scholars-public intellectuals sought to make Marathi as a vehicle for the
ideas of enlightenment so as to further develop the Marathi nationality on
progressive democratic lines. This task was seen as a component part of the task
of building a progressive democratic India. (In fact the slogan of Samyukta
Maharashtra Movement was Samajvadi Bharatat Samajvadi Maharashtra-
Socialist Maharashtra in Socialist India) Emerging as it was from the legacy of

Anti-Imperialist freedom struggle this discourse was not Nativist in the outlook
and had a Universalist vision of human progress. This was primarily because of
the prominence of anti-caste egalitarian intellectual political strand in
Maharashtra along with the anti-imperialist one. Dialectical relationship between
these two strands has been the basis of the nation building process in the post
independence period and in Maharashtra one comes across different forms this
relationship has taken. The tension between these two positions in pre-
independence period was reflected in the Ambedkar-Gandhi debate and in post
independence period ( especially in Maharashtra) it has surfaced as a tension
between Ambedkarite and Communists- two political forces that sought most
thoroughgoing restructuring of Indian Society. Marathi Intellectuals like
G.B.Sardar,Baburao Bagul, Nalini Pandit, Prabhakar Vaidya- who can be broadly
categorized as Creative Marxist- have made significant contributions towards the
resolution of this tension and emphasized the complementariness of these two
strands. Even though DKB was part of this intellectual milieu he himself has not
dealt systematically with Ambedkarite strand of thought. However as we seek to
demonstrate in the course of this work DKB shows an acute understanding of the
logic of Ambedkarite thought which is implicit in his humanist understanding of
Marxism. Therefore it is all the more important to study DKBs thought as it
points towards a synthesis of Ambedkar and Socialist project which is not
mechanical or eclectic but opens up a possibility of enrichment of socialist project
itself with Ambedkarite project being integral to it. Intellectuals like
Sardar,Bagul,Vaidya and Pandit were essentially creative interpreters or
commentators of Marxism and Ambedkarite thought but DKBs creativity lay in
seeking to expand the frontiers of thought itself. All the same, DKBs thought
must be seen in conjunction with the other intellectuals because this discourse in
its entirety can open the possibility of a democratic and humanist socialism in
Indian Conditions. No single intellectual, DKB included has not (and possibly
could not have) developed an outline or roadmap for this task but in their works
we can find the building blocks for the same.

This intellectual discourse was not academic in strict sense as it did not grow out
from the academic debates in the confines of universities. It emerged through an
active engagement with the political-social movements in Maharashtra and
responded to the questions that arose in the course of actual practice of these
movements. In fact Sardar would emphasise the principle of commitment
(Bandhilkiche Tatva) as a necessary foundation for intellectual activity and this
commitment was identified with the progressive transformative political practice.
(Sardar 1997) Their intellectual concerns were shaped by purposefulness and urge
to cultivate progressive and modern values amongst masses. In other words their
conception of intellectual activity had a distinct pedagogical element and since
they perceived transformative political practice to perform a pedagogical function
they envisioned intellectual and political activity to be organically linked. From
late 1960s and especially in 1970s several socialist-Communist-Ambedkarites
groups/platforms emerged in Maharashtra outside the fold of
communist/socialist/republican parties. Dalit Panther, Magowa, Yuvak Kranti
Dal, Vishamata Nirmoolan Shibir to name a few. Bedekar,Sardar,Pandit,Bagul
et al were associated with these groups and can be seen as ideological influences.
These groups had emerged in response to the political-ideological rigidities and
dogmatism of the left parties (such as Communist, Socialist, and Republican) and
infused fresh and creative perspective on social-cultural-political questions before
the transformative movement. Questions of the relationship between Anti-Caste
struggle and Class Struggle, need to address the problems of culture in shaping
the consciousness of masses, democratisation of the organisational practice and
democratisation of socialism in general, questions regarding the freedom and
quality of life of individual were some of the central issues debated and brought
forth by these groups which were largely ignored and marginalised by the left
parties. Assessment of the contributions of these groups would merit a separate
research but the point that is germane to our work is regarding the role of the
aforementioned intellectuals in shaping ideological positions through their
interventions. This process helped to expand the ambit of the progressive
discourse and also the practice of left parties which were forced to address the

issues raised by these groups. (Several activists of the aforementioned groups
eventually joined different left parties and their intervention there do bear the
stamp of their formative influences.) However this process of revision or updating
seems to have been restricted to the level of political-organisational issues and
more thoroughgoing reformulation of ideological theoretical nature as envisaged
by the creative Marxist intellectuals did not happen. (Probably it is also due to the
inability or hesitation to theorise the creativity shown at the level of practice and
clinging to old theoretical formulations which produces a discrepancy.) Around
the same time major European communist parties (Spain, Italy and France) were
moving towards a democratised socialism and even Gorbachevs initial attempts
can be seen in the similar vein. We are not suggesting that the
communists/socialist in India should have followed these trends and anyways that
discussion is not relevant to our work. What is important to note is the discourse
of creative Marxist intellectuals has the potential to develop into a thoroughgoing
re-foundation of Socialism in Indian conditions. Creative Marxist intellectuals in
Maharashtra did not conceive this re-foundation as an indigenisation by
compromising the Universalist vision of socialism. Neither did they seek to
abandon Marxism as it happened in case of Gorbachev and Eurocommunist
parties. However they emphasised the humanist vision underlying Marxism which
it inherits from the enlightenment tradition. Thus they sought to explore common
ground with radical strands of liberalism which has immense relevance in India
where liberal values have not taken sufficient roots and are threatened by the
persistence of pre-modern forms of consciousness. In our work we seek to review
how DKBs thought contributes to this task of refoundation or expanding the
ambit of socialist practice and theory. We are focussing on DKB since his works
even as they emerge from intellectual discourse in Maharashtra are also in close
affinity with the international socialist humanist current. Thereby we can see this
thought in its universal setting and see how this universal dimension is realised
through particular i.e. in Indian setting.

Need to Situate D.K. Bedekar in Socialist Humanist Thinking

Analysing DKBs thought in terms of socialist humanism is important for another

reason as the open-endedness or creativity in his thought has been misconstrued
as a position of free-thinker with no definite ideological moorings. This either
leads to seeing DKBs disenchantment with actually existing forms of socialism
as abandonment of socialism and Marxism or to appropriate his thought for non-
socialist or strictly speaking anti-materialist discourse. This danger of
appropriation is particularly visible in case of DKBs Dharma Vichar i.e. his
critique of religion where he discusses the question of evolving a humanist
conception of social-ethical life. It is particularly so because it is not
systematically presented and due to the paucity of Marxist thinking on these
questions in India which could otherwise have been a point of reference.
Communitarian scholars like Vasant Palshikar (Palshikar 2004) and M.P.Rege (
(Rege 1993) have sought to portray DKBs conception of social-ethical life as a
neo-religious one as they have neglected the fundamentally materialist content of
DKBs conception and its congruence with Socialist Humanist position. DKBs
invocation of the necessity of Shraddha or faith as a foundational understanding
of human life and practice has been misconstrued by these scholars as a neo-
religious position. This position deems reform of existing religious belief and
practices as necessary but nevertheless posits the necessity of religious world
view to human life in general. DKBs position as we shall discuss in detail in our
work is to envision a Dharma-Paryayi Shraddha- a non religious foundational
understanding distinct from religious faith and by placing DKB in neo-religious
ambit scholars like Palshikar or Rege have either missed or glossed over this
distinction. This confusion has also been caused because of the usage of the term
Dharma-Praya (quasi-religious) instead of Dharma Paryayi by DKBs editors
despite DKBs insistence. However, notwithstanding the terminological confusion
specificity of DKBs conception of Shraddha could not have been missed had it
been seen in the overall context of his intellectual and political concerns. Rege
misconstrues DKBs argument for the necessity of foundational understanding as

recognition of the need to posit a sanction or basis for the efforts to achieve
human well-being outside the human individual (Rege 1993), implying that it is to
be sought in existing belief-systems or communitarian values. Palshikar conceives
DKBs argument for Shraddha as an argument for the necessity of religion or
faith in its religious moorings for the sustenance of human life and for it to have a
sense of meaning and purpose. (Palshikar 2004) Thus Palshikar perceives DKB to
be critical of enlightenment thought and values and in affinity towards
communitarian positions of neo-religious bent. Socialist Humanism indeed
provides a critique of the alienating and dehumanising aspects of modernity under
capitalism but that does not entail an abandonment of enlightenment values like in
romantic or communitarian tradition. On the contrary it entails a critique of the
conditions where these values are not realised and once DKBs conception of
Shraddha ( and ensuing vision of social-ethical life for humans) is seen in
isolation from this project then it loses its specificity altogether. Therefore it is
necessary to see DKBs conception as Shraddha as responding to the socialist
humanist critique of dehumanisation/alienation.

Convergence between Abrahmani Tradition and Marxism

It could be argued that the attempt to bring DKB into Neo-religious fold has the
subtext of bringing him into neo-hindutva fold since the logic of Reges or
Palshikars communitarian neo-religiosity has veered towards a neo-hindutva
position. (S. Bedekar 1980) Argument for the necessity of religion to make human
life meaningful/purposeful along with the communitarian insistence on the
community as the pre-given repository of values and ideals would move towards
the affirmation of dominant religious-social world view and practices. Even if
neo-religious communitarian position locates itself in the so called little tradition
or subaltern practices (to accommodate reformism) it still remains in the ambit of
dominant world view. In Indian conditions this is clearly manifested in the
brahmanical conception of cast system where ritually inferior oppressed castes
share the brahmanical world view with the oppressor-ritually superior castes.
Bhakti tradition and especially Varkari tradition in Maharashtra can be seen as a

form of protest to Varna system-and therefore as a resource for finding common
ground between communitarian and egalitarian project. But ultimately it could not
transcend the brahmanical world view. This has been the centrepiece of
Ambedkars critical reception of Varkari tradition and we shall see in first chapter
how DKB also shares this position. Therefore in Indian conditions neo-religious-
communitarian position is susceptible to be co-opted (unwittingly or otherwise)
into a brahmanical world view and it has been argued that was the case with Rege
and Palshikar. This is one of the major reasons why DKBs critique of religion
and conception of Shraddha cannot be appropriated by this position unless it is
isolated from his over-all world outlook. DKB has been one of the few prominent
thinkers in Maharashtra who has never affirmed Vedic-brahmanical world view
and categorically stated that Indian civilisation should not be seen as a Vedic
civilisation but Bharatiya or Indian civilisation. (Bedekar 1970) He clearly brings
out the relationship between Vedic world view and Varna-caste system and
recognises the overlap between Vedic and brahmanical. (Bedekar 2008) He also
shows implicit recognition of the connection between the Humanism and
Egalitarianism of the reformist tradition to its opposition or critical distance with
respect to vedic vorld view. It is not that Marxists in Maharashtra actively
affirmed the vedic world view but nevertheless did not recognise the centrality of
the Vedic- non-Vedic or Brahmani-Abrahmani ideological struggle in Indian
society. (Gokhle 2000) If Marathi Marxists failure to recognise this centrality is
mediated through their appreciation for Tilak then DKBs affinity to reformist-
humanist discourse in Maharashtra that was critical of Tilak explains his
remoteness from Vedic-brahmanical world view. Even though DKB has not
clearly foregrounded the Vedic-non-Vedic or brahmani-abrahmani struggle it can
be argued that the logic of his humanist position takes him closer to the
Abrahmani intellectual tradition. This can also be seen other way round since the
socialist humanism in Indian conditions to be consistently humanist must be
consistently ant-caste since caste is a degrading dehumanising condition. Thus it
is the non-Vedic Abrahmani intellectual tradition which is humanist and

egalitarian can be logically extended towards a socialist humanism. DKBs
thought provides an opportunity to assess the possibility of this interaction.

Scheme of Chapters

Our first chapter deals with DKBs assessment of 19th century Reformist-
Humanist thought of activist-thinkers such as Jotirao Phule,Mahadev Govind
Ranade and Gopal Ganesh Agarkar. Marathi intellectual discourse in 20th century
grasped the contemporaneity of 19th century discourse and analysed it as a
modern political-philosophical discourse. DKB along with the likes of
Sardar,Vaidya and Pandit was one of the few Marxists to have engaged with this
discourse and their assessment is markedly different from the standard Marxist
interpretation of their times. 19th century reformist humanism provides the
background conditions for DKBs humanist understanding of Marxism/Socialism
and we have tried to show how this formative influence was a key factor in
shaping his socialist humanism. 19th century reformist-humanist tradition is also a
connecting link between DKB and Ambedkar. An overview of DKBs assessment
of this thought also brings to the fore the uniqueness of DKB in Marxist tradition
with respect to the question of the primacy of anti-caste struggle or anti-
imperialism which can actually be seen as an extension of the debate between
reformers and revivalists (Or even Ambedkar and Congress) primacy of the social
emancipation or political freedom. Even though the very framing of the primacy
question can be debated it is important to note DKBs clear affinity towards the
social emancipation position which comes out clearly in his assessment of 19th
century thought.
In second chapter we seek to analyse the specificity of DKBs understanding of
socialist humanism which can be grasped from his conception of Dharma Paryayi
Shraddha. DKB posits this conception as a foundation for humanist conception of
social ethical life and analysing this conception brings out DKBs vision of
humanist social ethical life. We have attempted to overview the prominent themes
in DKBs socialist humanism to understand the ethical vision of social
transformation that he held to and that informs his conception of Dharma Paryayi
Shraddha. Critique of Religion is central to DKBs socialist humanist project as
religion has historically shaped the conception of social-ethical life and its
foundation on humanist lines can only emerge through this critique. We have also
highlighted the necessity of this critique in Indian conditions and how DKB is one
of the earlier Marxists in India to have grasped the religious underpinnings of
caste. DKBs application of Marxist conception of alienation to the understanding
of Varna-Caste system brings him closer to Ambedkar as DKB grasps the
dehumanising and humiliating nature of this hierarchy to arrive at the normative
principle of Maanuski. Principle of Maanuski is an initial condition common to all
humans but its realisation in actual life of humans is the process of overcoming
alienation which is the central theme in Socialist Humanism. As we shall see
DKBs vision of social-ethical life is posited as a necessary condition for the
collective practice oriented towards this task.

Question of practice features in our third chapter where we have discussed DKBs
vision of transformative political practice. We have attempted to construct this
vision from his critical-polemical writings on the actual practice of
communists/socialists in his times. Even though these articles are polemical in
nature they are founded upon a definite vision grounded in socialist humanism
and inadequacies of communist/socialist practices are deemed to be
fundamentally ideological than merely tactical-political. DKB is one of the earlier
Marxists in India to have posited the indispensability of democracy to the socialist
project or seen democracy as a socialist project. We shall see how this emphasis
on democracy is emerging from the centrality to human agency in socialist
humanism and populist as well as messianic trends within communists/socialists
are seen by DKB as inimical to democracy as they enfeeble masses. This position
is linked to DKBs argument for the necessity of cultural transformation and
forging the raising the level of consciousness of masses and we attempt to briefly
overview the antecedents of DKBs position in Gramscian Marxism. This
argument is in the ambit of what has been called the question of preparation of
revolution in Marxist-Leninist tradition. This argument has been invoked in

Indian conditions by Ambedkar in his Marathi writings and therefore it opens a
possibility of dialogue between Ambedkarite thought and Humanistically
conceived socialism as in DKB. However the dialogue between Ambedkar and
Communists has the larger significance of bringing the two important strands of
enlightenment thought and we have tried to see how Ambedkars conception of
Dhamma which affirms liberal principles can hold out a possibility of dialogue
with DKBs humanist Marxism. Bringing out these connections is important to
see DKB as an enlightenment thinker and see how his contributions have enriched
the project for establishing enlightenment values which is still at a primary stage
in India.

Our principal sources have been secondary sources in the form of DKBs writings
that are available through his books, essays and articles published in several
journals. Along with this we have also referred to the works of DKBs
contemporaries in Maharashtra to contextualise his work. These sources are in
Marathi and therefore we have had to present their arguments in our working
translations. We have focussed on those writings of socialist humanist thinkers
which discuss the issues which appear in DKBs own writings. This way we have
interpreted DKBs works with reference to socialist humanist thought.
Connections between parallel and convergent intellectual traditions have been
established through such interpretations where such connections are not explicit.

D.K.Bedekars Analysis of 19th century
Dharma Vichar (Socio-Religious
Thought) in Maharashtra-An Overview

19th century socio-religious thought in Maharashtra heralded the beginning of

philosophical discourse in Modern Marathi. The reformist-humanist progressive
strand within this discourse signifies the beginning of Liberalism in Indian
conditions and emergence of the enlightenment values of Equality, Justice,
Humanism, in response to the political as well ethical challenge posed by the
British colonialism. (Vora 2008) Despite the internal contradictions and sharp
differences within this strand which surfaced on several key questions of the time,
they can be clubbed together in the logical class of the adherents of the
enlightenment values and emphasised the necessity of reforming or restructuring
our society on their foundations. With this expansive and Universalist vision these
activist-thinkers like Jotirao Phule, Mahadev Govind Ranade and Gopal Ganesh
Agarkar constructed a utopia for the Indian society and contributed to the end of
evolving a comprehensive world view or a conception of life for the masses.
(Sumant 2004) These thinkers-activists were Universalist as they did not
conceive the enlightenment values as western or European but saw them to be
responding the problems of traditional Indian society. In doing so they engaged in
different ways with tradition and attempted to re-interpret it or reclaim it so as it
make it attuned to the enlightenment project. (Vora 2000) We can assess the
extent of radicalism of these thinkers from their approach towards the tradition
but in their recognition of the continuity in the culture they maintained an
engagement with the tradition for without it the enlightenment project would not
find roots. However a common factor within this strand is their opposition to
parochialism and a civilisational vision which goes beyond even national

boundaries and sees the progress/reform of Indian society as a part of the progress
of human civilisation. Therefore it did not have a diffident attitude towards the
colonisers but they approached it from a position of civilisational unity. (Sumant
2004) In this sense this discourse is the logical predecessor of the three
transformative political-ideological strands that emerged in 20th century
(notwithstanding their differences)- Communists, Ambedkar and Gandhi. With
their civilisational-universalist vision these activist-thinkers of 19th century were
not just borrowing from the liberal enlightenment ideas that first emerged in
Europe but also enriching this discourse and redefining its practice in Indian
context, even while affirming its core values. However the general tendency is to
look at the life and works of the 19th century thinkers-activists as a social reform
activism which can then be diluted and appropriated. Therefore it is necessary to
see the philosophical core of this discourse which has been done in Marathi
intellectual tradition.
Since 1930s the intellectual tradition in Marathi has developed a discourse of
engaged reflection on the socio-religious and political-economic thought in
modern Maharashtra that had emerged with the advent of the colonial rule in early
part of the 19th century. This intellectual tradition is engaged because of the direct
involvement of the intellectuals/academicians in the project of social and political
transformation. Some of them had been associated with definite political
formations e.g. D.K.Bedekar with the Communist Party or Acharya Javadekar
with the Praja Socialist Party and maintained fraternal relations with parties or
non-party political formations like Yuvak Kranti Dal or Dalit Panthers e.g.
G.B.Sardar and Nalini Pandit. These thinkers saw the contemporary progressive
political practice as an advancement of the transformative project espoused by the
19th century Thinker-Reformers. It is reflective because it entails a retrospective
assessment of the strengths and limitations of the 19th century thought with
reference to the contemporary times and seeks to overcome the limitations to fine-
tune it to the present social conditions.
In this section we will review D.K.Bedekars assessment of the 19th century
thought and see how he stands with respect to the Marathi intellectual tradition. In

doing so we would attempt a brief comparison (or a counter-position) of
Bedekars views with Acharya Javadekars. The reasons to counter-pose Bedekar
with Acharya Javadekar are three fold. Firstly, While other scholars have
analysed the 19th century thought in its component parts these are the two of the
very first thinkers to have treated the 19th century thought as a totality ( unified
and differentiated) and assessed it comprehensively. Secondly, Bedekar and
Javadekar are also the representatives of the two prominent tendencies on the left-
i.e. Marxist-Socialists and Gandhian-Socialists (or Satyagrahi Socialists as put by
Javadekar himself) respectively and yet maintained a degree of heterodoxy vis-a-
vis these tendencies. Thirdly, Bedekars and Javadekars respective assessment of
the 19th century thought is also reminiscent of the two available positions on the
old question of precedence of the Social or Political emancipation.

Before taking upon board a review of Bedekars analysis of 19th century socio-
religious thought (Dharma Vichar) some observations are due. First of all he was
not a professional academician and thus his presentation even though strikingly
original on occasions would lack academic rigour and sophistication. His writing
is therefore not essentially academic but in the form of interventions in debates
and conversations with the intellectuals and activists. Neither his views on the
subject under consideration are exhaustive but they primarily stem from his larger
activist-intellectual project of evolution of a socialist-humanist conception of
ethical life. Hence he seems to have been drawn towards only those aspects of the
19th century enlightenment/reformist thought which is relevant to his project and
that he seeks to advance.

An Outline of D.K.Bedekars views on 19th century Dharma


Bedekar (henceforth DKB) traces the emergence of the reformist socio-religious

thinking to the need felt by the reformer-thinkers to revisit the question of
Dharma-Shraddha held by Indian society in general and society in Maharashtra in
particular.(Bedekar 1995) (It should be noted that Shraddha can be translated as

faith in its religious moorings but a more general translation would be the
understanding of humans of the human life which is the foundation for the
continuation of purposive and conscious human affairs. For convenience and
want of the better term we shall refer to Shraddha as Foundational
Understanding.) This was forced upon them by the spread of Christian
Missionary activities propagating Mono-Theist religion which entailed a critique
of the Magico-religious faith which pervaded the Indian society. ( Yatu-Nirbhar-
with the notions of purity and sanctity at its core and through these concepts
uniting the Man and Nature which is the hallmark of magico-religious belief,
albeit it had attained matured and thus more oppressive forms in Indian society
based on varnashrama dharma ). Although the advent of colonial rule heralded a
new awakening in every sphere of social life the religious (dharma-nigadit)
aspect of the awakening was bound to be the most prominent as it was a pervasive
aspect of the then social life defining or shaping everyday social practices (Achar
Dharma), Morality and even the political and economic life. Hence the religious
awakening (Dharma Prabodhan) was the obvious first stage. (Bedekar 1995)
(Kasbe, Ambedkar ani Marx 2006) (Bhole 2010) DKB enlists five key questions
facing the intellectuals in 19th century Maharashtra regarding Dharma-Shraddha.
First, what position is to be taken towards the institution of caste in Hindu society
which is based on the notions of purity-sanctity and determined by birth? Second,
what position is to be taken towards the ideas of polytheism and idol-worship
which have originated from magico-religious beliefs? Third, How to synthesise
the religious faith with secular ethics and morality? , Fourth, how to analyse the
religious faith and modern science in comparative terms? , and fifth, How to
relate patriotism with religious faith? (Bedekar 1995)
It is with respect to the different answers given to these questions different trends
within the reformist camp as well as between the reformists and revivalists can be
discerned and analysed. Thus DKB provides us with an analytical framework to
look at the 19th century thought in Maharashtra in particular and India in general.
The specificity of DKBs framework lies in the central employment of the
concept of Shraddha which is unique in the Indian Marxist tradition as the

transformations in the superstructure have rarely been explored with reference to
social transformations, barring the works of D.D.Kosambi (Kosambi 2011) who
has emphasized the methodological importance of the study of ideological
superstructure in writing history. With respect to aforementioned five questions it
can be seen that the reformist camp had engaged itself primarily with the first
three questions and the attitude of the revivalist was to engage primarily with the
later two questions while adopting a status-quoist position regarding the first
three. However this is a schematic presentation since it is not the case that the
reformers had not engaged with the later questions at all and even a revivalist like
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was to write Gita-Rahasya which while being revivalist in
character by upholding Vedanta- was refuted by the Sanatani-Orthodox
Brahmins-the genuine defenders of the status-quo.
The common thread running through the reformist camp as argued by the DKB
was the critique of Yatu-Nirbhar Dharma Shraddha-Magico-Religious Beliefs
as the cause of the decadence of the Society. (Bedekar 1995) The attempt of the
reformers was to forge a new Shraddha-as a new foundational understanding of
the society-which is the source of its ethical conceptions regarding forms of
human association and social practices. With respect to the conception of this new
foundational understanding, DKB identifies two trends within the reformist camp.
Firstly the trend of Ranade and Phule (or Prarthana Samaj and Satyashodhak
Samaj respectively) which posited the necessity of embracing a form of Mono-
Theism and the other trend of Agnostic-Rationalist Agarkar who was closer to the
Humanist or Human-Centric Foundational Understanding and thus was averse to
Mono-Theism as well. (Bedekar 1995) At this point DKB argues that essential
force behind the social reformist initiatives regarding the eradication of
untouchablity, emancipation of women, and establishment of egalitarian social
order was the humanist foundational understanding, which could not be realized
in purely secular humanist terms and was expressed in the form of mono-theism
(in case of Phule and Ranade) because of the limitations of the then existing
circumstances shaped by the colonial rule and generalized socio-economic
backwardness. DKB traces the invocation of Phule as well as Ranade by

Ambedkar as his great guides to the fact of this Humanist Understanding which is
also at the core of Ambedkars conception of Maanuski. However DKB has
elsewhere also pointed out the failure to evolve a completely humanist
understanding as the fundamental limitation of the 19th century enlightenment
(Prabodhan) and advocated the necessity of the second wave of reforms or
enlightenment. (Bedekar 1966) Nevertheless DKBs peculiarity with respect to
standard Marxist ( political as well as academic) critique of the 19th century
reformist thought can be noted as the later finds humanism itself to be the
bourgeois limitation of the reformist thought. (Shinde 1985) (Desai 2005)
(Panikkar 2008) Another important observation made by DKB is his very brief
but original analysis of the revivalist strand represented by the likes of
Vishnushatsri Chiplunkar and Tilak. These thinkers were firmly opposed to the
Mono-Theism which was seen as a Christian and therefore British colonial
imposition and hence antithetical to the anti-colonial patriotic project. This led to
the adoption of a pragmatic position of doing away with the traditional magico-
religious belief-yatunirbhar dharma shraddha- wherever it was in contravention
to the patriotic-nationalist project and pandering to it or positively deploying it
wherever it serves to that end. (Bedekar 1995) DKB notes that this position while
being clearly anti-reformist was also not acceptable to the Sanatani Shatris and
Pandits. DKB further argues that this position is also ethically-neutral as it is not
a positive ethical conception that it adheres to but a purely pragmatic calculative
understanding of achieving the political ends, which is mistakenly identified with
being modern and rational-as these terms are made shorn of their ethical
normative content. (Bedekar 1995) According to DKB the ascendance of this
ethically-neutral pragmatism over the ethically oriented humanism (or proto-
humanism) is a lamentable phenomenon which lies at the basis of distortions in
the secularization of the Indian society, which can only be corrected through a
second wave of reforms/enlightenment. (Bedekar 1966) (Bedekar 2008)

Thus far we have seen DKBs views on 19th century thought in its generalised
outline, now we will turn to his elaborate treatment of certain key issues regarding
the 19th century thought

D.K.Bedekars Assesment of M.G.Ranade

In his essay Adhunik Maharashtratil Dharmaprabodhanachi

Prerana(Inspirational Sources of Religious Enlightenment in Modern
Maharashtra) DKB presents an overview Ranades Dharma Vichar-Socio-
Religious Thought and highlights its significant elements. (Bedekar 2008)
According to DKB, Ranades conception of Mono-Theism is distinct from the
Christian conception as on one hand it is shaped by Ranades affinity to Medieval
Bhakti Tradition in Maharashtra and on the other hand by the Radical sects within
Christianity such as Deists. Ranades Monotheism is Universal (Vishwadharmi) in
nature and has a human-centric or humanist conception of good (
Manavadharmi). Analysing Ranades essay Philosophy of Indian Mono-Theism
DKB points out three tendencies particularly abhorred by Ranade in his Dharma
Vichar. (In doing so DKB is employing the method of Apoha by explaining what
Ranades thought is not to explain what it is.) Ranade abhors these tendencies
because they stand as an impediment to knowledge of the self, the world and the
transcendental being. According to Ranade, Every philosophical discourse is
primarily preoccupied with knowing the nature of these three. These three
tendencies are Superstition, Mysticism, and Scepticism. Superstition is
manifest when the transcendental being is confined to particular space-time and
particular events or entities, which leads to poly-theism, conception of Avatar,
and rituals. Mysticism is manifest when human knowledge and powers are
deemed infinite. This path is devoid of Ananda and Rasa that is condition of
blessedness and beauty. Scepticism is manifest when human capacities are held in
contempt and therefore the existence of unknowns is posited as the impossibility
of them being known or their existence it. (It should be noted here that essentially
the Mysticism and Scepticism emerge from the inability to grasp the finitude

(Saantata) of human knowledge and capacities. DKB employed this concept of
Saantata in his Dharma Chintan quite centrally and enriched its content by
relating it to the actual practice of science. We will review the concept of
Saantata-Finitude and its analytical import in next chapter.) DKB points out that
Ranades Universal Mono-Theism steers clear of these tendencies and posits that
existence of god is manifest in the laws of purposefulness of nature thus it is a
form of Natural Theism where the Nature and Human Beings are a form of a
transcendental being however humans have a self-awareness and the capacity of
moral-choice up to ordained limit. Furthermore, for DKB it is universal in yet
another sense as unlike other Mono-Theisms ( or their current form) such as
Christianity or Islam the need for the mediation between the God and Human
beings by church is not deemed necessary and it is deemed universally available
to every human being. These two aspects of Ranades thought bring to the fore his
affinity with European radical religious sects like Deists and Unitarians which
posits the idea of single creator to be worshipped by all individuals. Rosalind
OHanlon has vividly brought out the connections between these radical sects and
Mid-Nineteenth century reformist discourse in Maharashtra. (O'Hanlon 2010) By
highlighting the aforementioned two aspects of Ranades thought DKB has
anticipated OHanlons work, albeit in a brief and schematic form. Therefore
Ranade seems to be talking of an emergent new universal mono-theism which is
yet to be realized and distinct from existing monotheisms. The other aspect of
Ranades conception of religion is the emphasis on human-centric conception of
goods which leads him to posit that worship of god is essentially the service of
humanity. According to DKB the emphasis on the service of humanity has its
source in the Bhakti Tradition which preached the values of tolerance, love and
compassion for living beings and equality in the eye of god. (Bedekar 2008)
However, it also seems to be a product of the influence of deist ideas regarding
moral good and conduct which is essentially in the amelioration of the condition
of Mankind. (O'Hanlon 2010) Probably it is a case of DKB taking Ranade at face-
value as Ranades consistent effort (true to his principles of moderation and
gradualism) was to place the new ideas in continuum with the Indian tradition, at

times tenuously. Of course DKB need not be faulted here for he was basing his
interpretations on the then available material. Along with highlighting the key
aspects of Ranades Conception of Universal and Humanist Mono-Theism DKBs
contribution lies also in mapping the successors of this wave of enlightenment in
different spheres of social life-especially literature- ( for DKB was an
accomplished literary critic equipped with Tradition Indian Aesthetic Theories as
well as Marxist Aesthetics) and the contemporary trends analogous with Ranades
ideas. DKB argues that in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Marathi
Literature the Universalist and humanist ideas of Ranade find reflection in the
works of finest of poets and novelists. (Bedekar 2008) DKB finds the idea of
Swarga Samakashata-i.e. the capacity of human beings to bring the heaven on
to the earth, expounded in the poetry of Marathis first modern poet Keshavasut
(Krishnaji Keshav Damle) to be an expression of the universal humanism of
Ranade variety. (Bedekar 2012) DKB says that even though very few people were
attending the prayer meetings in Prarthana Samaj the thought of Ranade was
reaching the literate masses through its literary expression. (Bedekar 2008) It is
significant that DKB brings out these connections as it shows his keen
understanding of Marxist conception of comprehending a social transformation in
its totality and thus he is able to appreciate the import of the 19th century wave of
enlightenment/reform in its fullest sense.

Sarvajanik Satyadharma and Parthana Samaj Phule and Ranade

Among the contemporary analogous trends DKB identifies Satyashodhak Samaj

or Sarvajanik Satya Dharma ( Universal Truth Seeking Society) founded by
Jotirao Phule. It is noteworthy that DKB attempts a synthesis of Prarthana Samaj
( Prayer Society) and Satyashodhak Samaj, which has its own pitfall but can also
open up new possibilities. At the outset itself it should also be noted that one does
not find a comprehensive treatment of Phule as a thinker or a system builder
(Deshpande 2009) in DKBs work. This seems to have been the case primarily
due to the unavailability of Phules major works until 1969 when the first edition
of his collected works was published by the government of Maharashtra and DKB

died in 1973. However the possibility of this being the case because of the general
cleavage between the Communist/Socialists and Non-Brahmin movement cannot
be ruled out either. Nevertheless one does find an attempt on part of DKB to come
to terms with Phule which was surely unique as the first sympathetic Marxist
treatment of Phule by Prabhakar Vaidya appears only in 1974. (Vaidya 1974)
DKB attempts the synthesis of Satyashodhak Samaj or Sarvajanik Satyadharma
and Prarthana Samaj in his essay Don Aadhunik Dharma Pantha (Bedekar
2008) Two Modern Religious Paths ( I have deliberately translated Pantha
literally as the term Sect cannot grasp the universalism implicit in them). DKB
emphasizes the religious nature of these two Samaj-Societies to highlight them
as the harbingers of a religious reformation in India as this aspect is frequently
missed owing to the later day distortions and deviation in the nature of these two
societies. DKB explains the distinctive character of these Samaj-Societies by
counter-posing it to traditional religious sects in India which were confined to the
ritual practices and worship of deities. (Bedekar 2008) These sects were not
identified as Samaj because it did not have a conception of society where as
these new religious Pantha had an essentially social vision. It was an attempt to
unite the entire society with a new religious or ecumenical foundation. The title
Samaj also points to this-worldly/ secular character of these Pantha as the
transformation of society and emancipation of the oppressed was their central
agenda and not the salvation. Here one is reminded of Buddhas saying that he is
not a Moksha-Data but a Marga-Data. In this sense Prarthana Samaj or
Satyashoshak Samaj are Jeevan-Marga i.e. the emancipatory path to be
followed in life. DKB disposes of with the standard charge levelled against these
Pantha that they were merely preoccupied with social reforms and religion was
only a means to that end or was used as a cloak. This argument appears to be
prima-facie correct as indeed these Pantha and their founders were engaged in
various social reform initiatives and one would counter-question the critiques that
after all what is wrong with that. Nevertheless this line of defence is a very thin
argument as it makes these Pantha and their founders bereft of an all-
encompassing vision of social life of humans, which as we have seen earlier was

inevitably religious for the all-encompassing character of traditional magico-
religious beliefs. DKB says that the Realisation of Gods (Eeshwar) Justice (for
Ranade) and Realisation of Nirmik-Creators Order on earth (for Phule) is the
motive force behind their social reform initiatives. (Bedekar 2008) However DKB
is not sensitive to the subtle but important distinction between Eeshwar-God and
Nirmik-Creator which has profound implications which we would discuss later.
DKB identifies the basic tenet of both these Samaj as Fatherhood of God and
Brotherhood of Humans which is not as anodyne as it may seem since its
adoption entails forthright disavowal of key precepts of Hindu Dharma and its
rituals and practices of Magico-Religious origin such as inequality and hierarchy
between castes ordained by Karma, notion of Avatar, notion of Brahma as the
transcendental being beyond even god, poly-theism. (Bedekar 2008) Extent of the
heterodoxy of these Samaj would be clear from the centrality accorded to these
precepts in Hindu Dharma. Dealing with the Sanatani-Orthodox critique of these
Samaj as Naastik in the sense of refuting the supremacy of Vedas DKB says that
indeed these were Naastik but they were not merely confined to rejecting the
supremacy of Vedas alone but any Holy-Book to that. No mediation between God
and humans in the form of Church or an Individual Prophet or a Holy Book is
acceptable to these Samaj. (Bedekar 2008) DKB notes the complete rejection of
Brhamin Purohit and the Institution of Purohit itself in Jotirao Phules conception
of Satya Dharma. Analysing the limited impact or reach of these Samaj DKB
states that it was largely due to their subversive character towards the exploitative
system of graded inequalities which threatened the entrenched interests of
Brahmins as well as superior Marathas. (Bedekar 2008) (How subversive was the
Prarthana Samaj is indeed a disputed question to which we would turn later,
however later ossification of Satyashodhak Samaj into Maratha Dominated Non-
Brahmin Movement testifies to the threat of the subversive ideas of Phule felt by
entrenched interests amongst Marathas.) DKB also laments the unbridgeable
divide between these two Samaj despite the significant unity of principles and
purpose. Here he quotes Vitthal Ramaji Shinde (who in many ways typifies the
possibility of the synthesis of these two Samaj) who said that it was extremely

unfortunate that these two Samaj turned away from each other. Owing to the
unfortunate divide between the Handful of Urban Educated Intellectual Elite and
the vast masses in village and mofusil and their Leaders ,one could not understand
others language and empathise with its pain. (Bedekar, Dharma Chintan 2008)
Shindes statement gives us the starting point to understand the pitfalls and
possibilities of the conceptual (possibly even political-ideological as we would
see later) move of the synthesis between Satyashodhak Samaj and Prarthana
Samaj i.e. in other sense between Phule and Ranade. Before discussing the social
political factors of the divide the subtle distinction between Ranades Eeshwar as
God and Phules Nirmik as Creator needs to be understood. In positing the Nirmik
who has vested his entire strength in Human Beings, Phule does not leave any
escape route from the struggle of emancipation as it is an entirely human
responsibility whereas positing God leaves this route open. Yashwant Sumant
traces the phenomenon of several Socialists withdrawing from the social-political
activism and being engaged in spiritualism to this escape route as there is always
a nascent danger of the withdrawal from social life (Samaj-Magnata) to
individual spiritual life (Dhyana-Magnata) being justified as the desire of god or
ordained by god, whereas Nirmik does not leave one with such option of shirking
from the responsibility which can only be deemed as the act of the breach of
partisanship towards the oppressed. (Sumant 2004) This imparts a radical and
uncompromising character to Phules project whereas one comes across at least
two glaring compromises made by Ranade with the orthodoxy in his own life.
(First the re-marriage with a 7 year old girl and other is Prayashchitta before
Shankarachrya for drinking tea in Panch Haud Mission) and the tendency to seek
the authority of Shastras for legitimising reforms. Phule on this count is a
revolutionary than a reformer as argued by Prabhakar Vaidya and G.P.Deshpande
(Vaidya 1974) (Deshpande 2009) as he rejects the authority of Shastras. Positing
Nirmik whose powers are entirely vested in humans is also closer to what DKB
calls a Humanist Foundational Understanding- Manav Shraddha, even though a
developed Humanism would not take recourse the concept of Nirmik as well. Yet
it can be safely argued that in the then existing circumstances Phules position

was closer to the Manav-Shraddha than that of Ranade. This point is either
missed in synthesis or not noted by DKB due to the reason of unavailability cited
above. Another pitfall of Phule-Ranade synthesis is blunting the critique of caste,
which was identified as an exploitative and morally degrading system by Phule
and hence the logical step for him to call for its complete abolition and his thrust
on the principle of Equality. The element of lower caste protest in the form of the
unity of stri-shudra-atishudras against the Brahminical order may be lost if it
were to be reconciled to the at best ameliorative ( and at worst elitist) approach of
Ranade and Prarthana Samaj, which had actually on occasions simply sought to
avoid the caste question. (Vora 2008) Shinde quite pithily points to the social
(class-caste) divide between these two Samaj in terms of their location as well as
position, as he himself could not continue the work of Untouchablity Eradication
from the platform of Prarthana Samaj and had to form the Depressed Class
Mission. Elitist nature of the Prarthana Samaj shouldnt be missed either as its
emphasis was on the social transformation from above led by the educated
enlightened elite. (Vora, Two Strands of Liberalism 2008) An instance of it in the
arena of political economy was Ranades advocacy of Junker or Prussian path of
Agrarian Transition from Above the landlords. Why it was the case can
only be answered by analysing the character of the emerging bourgeoisie under
colonial conditions, which is beyond the scope of our inquiry. Despite these
factors DKBs attempt at synthesis cannot be discarded for several reasons or the
possibility of a synthesis under more favourable circumstances cannot be ruled
out. If one rules that possibility out how would then one explain the invocation of
both Phule and Ranade as his great guides by Ambedkar. Here we need to
differentiate between the questions of pure opposition and that of a contradiction
and see whether the differences between Phule and Ranade were of earlier or later
variety. On the question of the primacy of Social Reforms (or emancipation in a
more Phule-ite sense) or Political Emancipation one would come across a pure
opposition between Phule-Ranade on one hand and Tilak on the other. This would
be the case on whole host of issues ranging from the Deccan Debt Relief Act
which was supported by Phule-Ranade and Tilak was on the side of

moneylenders, to the question of higher education for women. (Rao 2010)This
point is not missed by Ambedkar and he hails Ranade for emphasizing the
primacy of social reform as a matter of principle. What one observes in case of
Phule and Ranade is a contradiction emerging from their class-caste-origin and
class- caste-position i.e. their objective position in the society. In the case of a
contradiction the fact of negation cannot be absolutised at the cost of
interpenetration or unity of opposites. If not in these terms Ambedkar had realized
this fact and hence one can discern his attempt to unite or synthesise Phule and
Ranade under the rubric of Democratisation of the Social Order as the
precondition for the attainment of Political Democracy. (Ambedkar 1979) The
rubric under which DKB seeks to unite them is that of Secularisation of the
Indian Society and establishment of a Humanist Ethics, which is the running
thread in his entire body of work, which cannot be separated from the project of
the Democratisation of Social order espoused by Ambedkar, and there are enough
areas of convergence between the two on this plane.

D.K.Bedekar on the Principle of Divine Providence

Exploring the relationship between Phule, Ranade and Ambedkar brings us to the
frequently levelled charge of their compromise with the British Imperialists. This
charge had been levelled in their times by the Extremists-Nationalists and albeit in
a different form by communists as well. Even in contemporary times Marxist
Scholars have faulted Phule for his inability to comprehend the machinations of
imperialists (Shinde 1985) (Deshpande 2009) and missed the import of the
emphasis on Social emancipation by Phule and others. DKB is one of the few
Marxists to have been critical of Tilak on the question of precedence of social or
political emancipation. This charge can be dealt with by invoking the historically
validated argument of the opportunity side of colonial modernity (Guru 2003)
for the historically oppressed sections of the Indian Society, which is a political-
tactical explanation. Indeed it was a question of a tactics to be adopted in the then
existing circumstances but it also was a question of Moral-Principled nature
which DKB has sought to explain in his essay on the Principle of Divine

Providence espoused by Ranade. DKB argues that the Principle of Divine
Providence should not be mistaken with the notion of Avatara which is rooted in
the cyclical theory of Karma as Ranade had rejected the theory of Karma and
emphasized the active aspect of human self (not bound by karma). (Bedekar
2008) Fundamentally Ranades position is to posit a moral order inherent in
universe and the knowledge of this moral order is possible only through the
devotion to the god who is the creator and regulator of this moral order. Moral
progress is deemed possible due to the existence of moral order which is the
foundation of all reform initiatives. DKB traces this position of Ranade to the
differences between him and Tilak on the questions of reform and then further
extends it to their attitude towards the British. (Bedekar 2008) We have earlier
seen the purely pragmatic approach of the political use of religion in Tilak, which
was visible in his opposition to the Bill of Consent. DKB argues that Tilaks
position on this occasion was a-moral or morally indifferent and had two
pragmatic political considerations. (Bedekar 2008) First consideration was that of
the Bill being an Outside-Imperialist intervention in the internal affairs of
Indians. On this Ranades position was that beyond the fact of the promulgation
of this Bill by outsiders or insiders there is a morally abiding case for it and moral
progress demands its promulgation. Tilaks second consideration was the
opposition of the majority of the Indians to the Bill. Indeed had there been a
referendum on the issue it would have certainly gone against the Bill of Consent.
Citing the dedication of Tilaks Gitarahasya where he dedicates the book to the
God in the form of Masses-Janata-Janardan, DKB argues that Ranades God is
not the Janata-Janardan but the moral regulator of the universe and even
though seen as God-Janardana the Janata-Masses indeed remain the masses
with human limitations and fallibility and hence for Ranade the reforms cannot be
based solely upon the opinion of masses but require a moral foundation beyond
that. (Bedekar 2008) (By highlighting these issues DKB has opened up several
questions relating to the Moral Foundations of Politics and the tensions between
Radical Social Reform and Workings of Mass Democracy which are germane to
the transformative political practice.) In fact according to DKB Ranades politics

itself was based on the moral foundations ( an assessment he shares with
Ambedkar (Ambedkar 1979)) and hence the goal of uprooting the British rule in
itself was deemed inadequate by him, (Bedekar 2008) which can said to be the
position of other social revolutionary/reformers such as Phule, Ambedkar and
Agarkar. Ranade (and others) believed that attainment of political independence
cannot be the guarantee of the moral progress of human beings which has to be a
continuous effort during the struggle for political independence and even after its
attainment. Whereas for Tilak the struggle for political independence is deemed
supreme and the moral progress is either subordinated to that goal or even worse
an approach of indifference is maintained towards that. Thus the co-operation
sought from the British in social reform is seen as collaboration or compromise.
DKB points out that since the effort or struggle for moral progress is to be a
continuous one even as one fights for the independence from the conquerors one
has to adopt a position of taking necessary help from the conquerors in removing
the hindrances to the moral progress. (Bedekar 2008) Thus Ranades position of
seeking co-operation from British is not borne out of a position of inferiority but
from the confidence of being equal with them on the universal plane. Here DKB
also notes counterfactually that the failure to understand this is also at the root of
the distortion of Phules project by his unsavoury critiques which is the most
unfortunate phenomenon in the history of modern history as a more sympathetic
appraisal of Phules project would have redefined the trajectory of
enlightenment/reform in Modern Maharashtra. (Bedekar 2008) According to
DKB the essence of the Principle of Divine Providence lies in the Universalist
position that the conquerors (i.e. British) and the conquered (i.e. Indians) have to
tread the same path of moral progress and in doing so co-operate mutually.
(Bedekar 2008) Making an oblique reference to the tendency amongst the Marathi
intellectuals ( progressive and otherwise) to uncritically respect the national
leaders without paying attention to ideological essence of their position, DKB
says that this attitude of reverence would make one oblivious to the ideological
tensions within the different great leaders and only obfuscate the reality.

D.K.Bedekars Critique of Tilaks Gita Rahasya

Critique of Tilaks philosophical position or world view can be considered DKBs

distinctive contribution to the theoretical/philosophical discourse in Modern
Marathi. Tilak was most certainly subjected to severest of criticism by his own
reformist contemporaries and even more so by the leaders of Non-Brahmin
Movement.(The most ruthless being the one by Satyashodhak Dinkarrao Javalkar
in his booklet Deshache Dushman- Enemies of Nation) However in the later
times the abovementioned attitude of reverence seems to have overwhelmed
Tilaks assessment in Marathi, except the Non-Brahminical (Abrahmani) stream
but even that has not produced a systematic critique of Tilak. DKB however did
not dither and produced two critical commentaries on Tilaks Gita Rahasya (that
too on the occasion of his birth centenary and 50th death anniversary).
Lokmanya Tilkanchya Gita Rahasyatil Duheri Saadhya (Bedekar 1956) Twin
objectives of Tilaks Gita Rahasya and Lokmanya Tilkanchi Neetimeemansa
(Bedekar 1970)- Tilaks conception of Ethics. The first one is on the
philosophical status of Gita Rahasya with respect to Indian Darshanik-
Philosophical Tradition and Modern philosophical discourse in Europe. The later
one is relevant to our study since it is in many ways an extension of DKBs views
on Tilak which we have reviewed before. DKB identifies the incentive behind
Gita Rahasya to be the dual confrontation that Tilak faced with the Sanatani
Shastri-Pandits on one hand and Social Reformers like Ranade/Agarkar on the
other which shaped the structure of the argument of Gita Rahasya. (Bedekar
1956) (Bedekar 1970) DKB illustrated this with reference to the question of the
capacity of the subject/agent to make moral judgment. Traditional Vedantic
Karma theory posits that the human being is bound by the karma and therefore
does not have freedom of action or will. With this conception the question of
capacity of moral judgment becomes redundant and therefore Tilak has to find a
way out from this determinist/fatalist conception while upholding the legitimacy
of Vedanta or invoking the authority of Vedanta. (Bedekar 1970) DKB shows
how Tilak has had to distort or twist the terms in traditional Vedanta. In Tilaks
scheme Jeevatma (the element of paramatma or brahma transcendental being)

despite being inactive (akarta) acquires force (Tilak uses analogy of steam
trapped in a container which acquires force only by being trapped) to perform the
karma to attain moksha (salvation) which is called the freedom of Atma.
(Bedekar 1970) However DKB shows that this is a distortion of the traditional
conception of Atma where Jeevatma is bound by karma and Atma is free, and
Tilak collapses the two to show Jeevatma to be free. To sustain this argument
Tilak has had to extend the analogy of steam and posit that even though atma is
otherwise inactive since it is entrapped it acquires the apparent force which
means the freedom from the laws of Karma. However DKB notes that this is only
an argumentative move which has no standing in the traditional Vedanta.
(Bedekar 1956) Tilak invokes the vedantic conception of Jeevatma being
considered to be Karta active (while being bound by karma) to make the rules of
conduct (Vidhi-Nishedh Shastra) meaningful and argues that itself denotes the
freedom of the atma (being). (Bedekar 1970) However DKB shows this argument
to be an obfuscation of the issue at hand. The freedom of the agent to perform the
karmic activities, laid down in the rules of conduct is fundamentally different
from the freedom of the individual agent to make moral judgment. Freedom that
obtains to the agent bound by karma is only to disobey or obey the karmic rules of
conduct and in the event of earlier he would commit sin and punya in later. But
this agent doesnt have the freedom even to ask why certain activity is prohibited
and certain activity is not. (Bedekar 1970) DKB quips that this is like the freedom
of an incarcerated person to follow or flout the rules of the jail. The reason why
we have delved upon this seemingly obscure exegesis because it shows DKBs
recognition of the specificity of Tilaks revivalism which maintained a degree of
heterodoxy towards tradition while upholding the orthodoxy against the
reformers- characteristic of a conservative modernist. Recognition of this
specificity puts DKB in an almost unique position among the
Marxists/Communists in Maharashtra. There are instances of inflating the element
of Tilaks heterodoxy (to the traditional Vedanta) out of existence without being
attentive to its conservative core which defends the theory of karma- the
foundation of the system of graded hierarchies in Indian society-

Varnashramdharma. (Deshpande 2009) This fatal oversight clubbed with the
appreciation of Tilaks role as the champion of the anti-imperialist struggle-
which can again be shown to be a result of his heterodox action-oriented Vedanta-
has led to a skewed understanding of the challenges before the social reformers.
This results in their criticism as being the collaborators of British without
understanding the social-ideological foundations of the then anti-imperialist
camp. A large section of Communists in Maharashtra (led by S.A.Dange) have
demonstrated this tendency which-as Raosaheb Kasbe points out- has created
utter confusion as to their (communists) sources and predecessors which has
rendered its position on the social questions ineffective. (Kasbe 2006) At this
backdrop, DKBs reflections on Tilak point towards his affinity with the
Abrahmani Intellectual tradition. (Non-Brahmanical-which is a world view
essentially Non-Vedic and prone to be anti-caste. Not to be confused with Non-
Brahmin which signifies a conglomeration of castes.) How far his Socialist
Humanist understanding of Marxism is responsible for this affinity needs to be
established by examining the humanist core of his Marxism and the humanist core
of the Abrahmani intellectual tradition which we seek to do in the 2nd and 3rd
chapters respectively.

D.K.Bedekar on Christianity and Bhakti

As a brief detour we would review DKBs treatment of the emancipatory potential
of the early Christianity (or Jesus Christs gospel) and the relevance of the
Medieval Bhakti Tradition of saint poets in Maharashtra-two issues which
occupied 19th century reformer-thinkers in Maharashtra. It is also important to
take a note of this because it also reflects DKBs awareness of the relevance of
tradition for a modern transformative project and thus the need to critically
analyse the tradition for its modern re-appropriation.

In his treatment of the early Christianity (or Jesus Christs gospel) DKB identifies
two aspects which render it with an emancipatory potential.1- Strong Rejection of
the Magico-Religious Poly-Theism and other practices such as sacrificial rituals,
Notions of purity and sanctity and hierarchies amongst human beings based on

these notions 2- In the form of Jesus positing a human being at the centre of
religious faith and thus bringing the entire humanity under its ambit which is a
form of universalism. (Bedekar 1995) DKB notes that before Christ it was only
Buddhas Dhamma which had this universalist notion of bringing the entire
humanity under its ambit and thus it is a valid conjecture to be explored whether
Buddhas Dhamma had an influence over the Gospel of Christ. (Bedekar 1995)
Interestingly what DKB posits as a conjecture is argued with an ideological
conviction by Phule as he hails Buddha (whom he refers as Sankhya Muni or
Shakya Muni) and Jesus Christ (whom he occasionally refers as Yeshwant) as
the Bali Rajas-the liberators or the champions of the oppressed humanity.
(Gokhle, Ekonisavya Shatakatil Don Vichar Dvandve 2000) It is definitely the
emancipatory-anti-ritualistic humanistic character of the transformation wrought
by Buddha and Christ that shapes Phules position. (Sardar 2005) Furthermore
DKB states that owing to its sacrilege against the entrenched magico-religious
belief early Christians (including Jesus Christ himself) were subjected to
excruciating torture and at the same time it attracted the wretched of the earth-
especially the slaves-into its fold. (Bedekar 1995) Early Christianity according to
DKB was like a great struggle of emancipation of the oppressed which stands out
for its immense sacrifices and compassion. It should be noted that this assessment
is not unique even in Marxist tradition where Engels had noted and hailed the
emancipatory character of the early Christianity but seldom had Marxists in India
noted it so pointedly, at least up to that point in time when DKB wrote this. (Not
until the active participation of Liberation Theologians in Anti-Imperialist
struggles in Latin America the Marxists in India had taken cognisance of this
element) This issue is germane to the discussion of Critique of Religion in
Marxist Tradition and how DKB applied it to the Indian Conditions, which will be
dealt with in next chapter.

DKB has made certain pertinent observations on the Medieval Bhakti Tradition of
Saint Poets in Maharashtra. Marxists in Maharashtra such as B.R.Sunthankar and
later G.B.Sardar have made comprehensive evaluation of the social implications
of this tradition, and DKBs assessment closely resembles that by
Prof.G.B.Sardar. Difference between Sardars and DKBs assessment is only that
of methodological emphasis. Prof.Sardar has applied the base-superstructure
model (not in its crude form but acknowledging the reciprocal effectivity of
superstructure) to analyse the Saint Poets work in its historical setting of Indian
Feudalism. (Sardar 2004) Whereas DKBs focus is on the distinctive religious
faith of saint poets, but that is probably only because of the fact that his treatment
of Bhakti Tradition is with a specific objective of mapping the transformations in
religious faith-Dharma Shraddha- In Indian history in general and history of
Maharashtra in particular. DKB also shows a keen awareness of the previous
attempts of tracing the antecedents of Bhakti and Mahanubhav sect to the
Buddhist Tradition and the argument that Vitthal of Pandharpur in actually a form
of Buddha. (Bedekar 1995) DKB identifies saint poets work as an attempt to
critically reflect on the prevalent Magico-Religious beliefs of the masses and
locates its emergence around the urban centres such as Pandharpur, Paithan, and
Ruddhipur. (Bedekar 1953) He also notes emphasis of Bhakti saints such as
Dnyaneshwar and Tukaram on pure devotion to god and compassion (Karuna)
towards fellow human beings irrespective of social status. (Bedekar 1995)
Nevertheless, according to DKB this emergent new religious faith remained
confined to very few individuals and even within Varkaris the prevalence of
polytheism, ritual practices and observance of caste hierarchies continued
unabated. There was no real confrontation between the prevalent magico-religious
beliefs entrenched in village society and the new emerging religious faith of
Bhakti saints and therefore it could neither bring any tangible transformation in
the social conditions of existence nor precipitate a transformation on the lines of
Lutheran Reformation, In fact it was consequently co-opted into the fold of
existing religious belief. (Bedekar 1995) At this point DKBs position is closer to
that of Phule and Ambedkar -who had criticised the Bhakti Saints for being
circumscribed within the Hindu fold- than that of Ranade who had compared the
work of Bhakti Saints to Lutheran Reformation.

D.K.Bedekar and Acharya Javadekar-A Brief Comparison

After having reviewed DKBs works on 19th century thought we would attempt a
brief comparison between his views and the views of Acharya Javadekar.
Authoritative exposition of Acharya Javadekars views on 19th century thought is
available in his seminal work Aadhunik Bharat which is the first comprehensive
account of the Politics and Ideas in modern India in Marathi. In the chapter titled
Bharatiya Sanskrutiche Tatva-Manthan Theoretical Debates on Indian Culture
and Civilisation- Acharya Javadekar (henceforth AJ) discusses the convergences
and divergences between the different trends within the 19th century thought.
(Javadekar 2008) AJs views would merit a separate study but here we would
highlight the differences between his and DKBs views pertaining to emphasis,
framework and implications. AJ follows an Anti-Imperialist Nationalist
framework whereby the centrality is accorded to the struggle for independence
from the British and the thought is mapped according to its position towards this
struggle. This finds the reflection on his scheme of shifting fault-lines between
thinkers as he clubs Tilak and Agarkar together against Ranade. According to AJ
there was a fundamental agreement between Tilak and Agarkar on the plane of
Rationalism which separates them from Ranade. (Javadekar 2008) On the
contrary DKB has argued that even though Agarkar would not approve of
Ranades position regarding the God as the Moral regulator he also deemed the
moral foundation necessary for reforms and was in agreement with Ranade on the
issue of the necessity of moral progress which sets him apart from Tilaks
Morally-Neutral pragmatism. (Bedekar 1995) Instead of locating the source of
moral progress in God he would locate in Human capacities and reason. (Bedekar
2008)AJs position seems to have been borne out of excessive emphasis on
Agarkars rationalism and scepticism -which Javadekar traces back to Vedanta
and establishes his affinity to Tilak- at the cost of the ethical content of his
thought. (Javadekar 2008) This can be attributed to the exigencies of Anti-
Imperialist Nationalist framework, whereby Tilaks retrogressive positions on

social questions are deemed only contingent factors. DKBs Socialist-Humanist
framework can appreciate the importance of Anti-Imperialist struggle but it
identifies the fault-line between Reformism and Revivalism to be the central one
in 19th century as his frame of reference remains universalist in character as
opposed to AJs which is preoccupied with exploring connections between
cultural consciousness and anti-imperialism. AJ and DKB are the only two
thinkers in Maharashtra to have appreciated that the 19th century thought was a
Modern Philosophical Theoretical Discourse where the fundamental problems
before Indian Society were formulated and discussed with its possible solutions in
mind. Most of the problems formulated by the 19th century thinkers are still
awaiting their solution in their most complete forms and therein lays the relevance
of AJ and DKBs analysis. However the difference in their framework and
emphases leads to the difference in identifying and prioritizing these problems.
Basically the old question of precedence of social or political emancipation which
still remains unresolved (or even awaits a clear formulation in present context)
within the emancipatory movements and progressive parties can be revisited with
the insights gained from 19th century thought and debates. Here the different
implications of AJs and DKBs scheme become visible as it is the AJ position
which has remained predominant amongst the Communists and Socialists and
DKB position is akin to Ambedkarite-Dalit Movement. The intellectual and
political task before those concerned with the thoroughgoing social
transformation of Indian society remains that of synthesis between these two
streams and as we would try to show in subsequent chapters DKBs socialist
humanism makes a contribution towards this task.

Contemporaneity of 19th century Reformist Humanist Thought

However we should first analyse how and why DKB thought the 19th century to
be contemporary as this would help us elaborate his primary intellectual-political
concerns. This way we can appreciate the connection between his assessment of
19th century reformist-humanist thought and his understanding of socialist
humanism and in the light of these his contribution to the critique of religion.

Neeti over Dharma- Primacy of Social Ethic over Religious Morality
The understanding of religion in 19th century Reformist-Humanist Socio-
Religious thought as we have seen before was essentially in terms of social-
ethical practice and realization of human values- it envisioned Dharma in terms of
Neeti- and therefore albeit expressed in religious form ( with the exception of
Agarkar) brought this-worldly human life to the centre of the discourse. These
thinkers were engaged in evolving a conception of a new social ethic as opposed
to the prevalent religious code. DKB must have recognized the relevance of this
position as there is a consistent thread in his work differentiating between
Religion and social ethic. DKB not only differentiates between the two but much
in the fashion of Phule and Agarkar argues for the lexical priority of the social
ethic superseding religious code in case of the conflict between the two. (Bedekar
2008) This position entails that the conception of good for the society should not
be a preordained one but commonly fashioned and realized through social
practice of humans. Thereby the criterion of judgment should also be rooted in
this social practice and not in an ossified code. DKBs thrust on this position rests
on two ethical arguments which he shares with the 19th century thinkers. First of
all such a secular/this-worldly conception of social ethic is necessary to build an
integrated society with bonds of solidarity shared by all humans, especially in the
Indian context where fragmentations primarily based on the caste-hierarchy and
religion impede the possibility of this integration. (Bedekar 1970) (Bedekar
2008)19th century reformist thinkers conceived this task in terms of a religious
universalism and for DKB it underpinned the realization of a socialist
universalism. Even though the character of this task of integration under colonial
conditions was different and the post-independence situation has added new
complexity to it, relevance of this Universalist vision as discerned by DKB is
evident in contemporary times with the persistence of the communal and caste-
based violence. One is reminded here of Ambedkars argument in Annihilation of
Caste that the necessity of the communal award in 1930 was borne out of the
failure of the social reform as it was overridden by the struggle for political
independence. (Ambedkar 2007) According to DKB, precedence of social ethic
over religion is necessary for requisite sensitivity for the resolution of the
problems facing human society. (Bedekar 1970) (Bedekar 2008) 19th century
thought represented an awakening in the context of a moribund and dormant
Indian people conquered by the British. However even in the post-independence
period in which DKB was active this question of dormancy was and has been
persistent.DKB attributes it to the limitations of the 19th century awakening and
also to the weakening of the ethically oriented reformism and ascendancy of a
ethically-neutral political pragmatism which we have already discussed in the
context of the debate between reformers and Tilak. (Bedekar 1966) In political
sphere DKB finds this manifested in the normative-substantive content of the
democracy giving way to the competitive-procedural element and in human life in
general in the currency of the ethic of competition and acquisitiveness. (Bedekar
1968) (Bedekar 2008) Therefore in the public as well as private realm of life
humans do not seem to be gaining the consciousness of the
oppressive/dehumanizing conditions of life and this consciousness would require
a cultivation of a conception of social ethic and values. (Bedekar 2008) In this
sense this social ethic is conceived by 19th century thinkers and DBK alike, as a
driving force or a collective conscience for action oriented towards social
transformation, for this transformation itself has an ethical dimension as it
involves a moral progress-in values and forms of human association. Shift in the
historical context and the fundamental differences in the philosophical position
would entail a difference in the character of the conception of social ethic in 19th
century thought and DKBs thought. (In the next chapter we shall see how DKB
develops these conceptions in the light of socialist humanist world view.)
However the continuity between the two is the need for this social ethic to replace
the religious code as it is inadequate on both the grounds- defragmentation-
integration of society and raising the consciousness for the social transformation.
In this way the primacy of the critique of religion forces DKB to revisit the
resources for the same in 19th century thought.

Going Beyond Religion through Public Engagement with Religious

For the secular social ethic to take roots in the sense of defining the social
consciousness of the masses a continuous process of reflection and engagement
with the prevalent religious faith and beliefs is necessary-an immanent critique so
to speak. DKB identifies the 19th century socio-religious thought or Dharma
Vichar to have signified the beginning of this process (Bedekar 2008) This was
however discontinued in 20th century (Dr.Ambdekar can be seen as the last of this
tradition in Maharashtra) as the religious thought became increasingly oriented
towards the inner life (Dhyana Magna) of the individual as opposed to the
socially oriented ( Samaj Magna) in 19th century. (Sumant 2008) This
development also contributed in stultifying the process of religious reform and
concomitantly secularization of the society. DKB points towards a connection
between the decline of the tradition of Dharma Vichar and the heightened sense of
religious identity and religious chauvinism. (Bedekar 2008) In the midst of mass
religiosity (religious festivities, rituals, mobilization-on the lines of religious
identity) and manipulation of religion for political purposes the absence of
Dharma Vichar seems particularly glaring and lamentable to DKB. (Bedekar
2008) This can be seen in relation to the earlier point regarding social ethic. Lack
of Dharma Vichar in the midst of such situation has regressive consequences in so
far as it fosters uncritical, non -reflexive attitude towards religious morality. This
attitude is damaging for the democracy as the democracy in India is deeply
entwined with the principle of secularism- DKB explicitly states it to be a
hallmark of any modern democracy- and this principle demands that the lexical
priority be accorded to social ethic over religious morality in the case of conflict.
In the context of Hindu dharma enmeshed in the degrading and dehumanizing
practice of caste hierarchy and untouchablity DKB posits the necessity of a state
adhering to the principle of secularism -Dharmatit is the term he uses as against
Sarva Dharma Samabhav, Dharmatit literally translates as beyond religion- for
the establishment of social-ethical life on humanist lines. (Bedekar 2008) Linking
Dharma Vichar ( in the sense of a socially oriented immanent critique) with

secularism DKBs argument points towards the argument of bringing the religious
questions ( pertaining to beliefs, practices) in the public sphere for a critical
scrutiny, in fact this public engagement is a precondition for strengthening
secularism. This can make the conception of secularism thicker as it ensues from
a confidence in the modern values and social ethic on which secularism is
founded. It stands in contrast to a rather reticent secularism (practiced as Sarva
Dharma Samabhav) which shies away from drawing religious conceptions in
public engagement. (This reticence can be partially due to the ethically-neutral
vision of politics wherein if not confidence but commitment to the modern values
and social ethic is lacking and therefore it gives a thin/weaker variant of
secularism) DKBs invocation of 19th century thought owes to its emphasis on
such a public engagement and this not only enriches his understanding of
secularism but also leads to a clear understanding of the centrality of the question
of faith/shraddha to human life. Centrality of the question of shraddha in DKBs
own thought is premised upon an understanding that shraddha or faith is
essentially social in character and therefore confining it to private sphere cannot
serve the end of secularizing society or public sphere as its social function goes
unaddressed. One of the reasons why DKB turned to the 19th century reformer-
thinkers could have been in their recognition of the social character of
faith/shraddha, albeit in a rudimentary form and remaining within the ambit of
dharma-shraddha/religious faith.

Chapter 2
Socialist Humanism and D.K.Bedekars
conception of Dharma Paryayi
Significance of DKBs thought lies in his recognition of the contemporariness of
the 19th century reformist socio-religious thought as he recognized that the central
questions before the 19th century reformer-thinkers still await their complete
resolution. DKB understood the central question before them to be to evolve a
humanist foundational understanding for the ethical social life of the individuals.
However as we have seen the mono-theist secular humanism of the 19th century
reformer-thinkers was inadequately humanist for DKB as it was still expressed in
religious form (with the exception of Agarkar who was indeed a formative
influence on DKB) .Therefore DKBs effort was to develop the 19th century
socio-religious thought on humanist lines with the Marxist critique of religion and
conception of human life at its basis. DKB attempted to map the 19 th century
socio-religious thought on to a socialist humanist problematic. This process as it
seeks to enrich the content of the 19th century reformist thought has profound
implications for the socialist humanism (and especially its practice) as it enriches
it as well by making it cognizant of the specific conditions in the Indian context.

In this chapter we would seek to analyse DKBs critique of religion and its
implications for his conception of humanism in general and the question of
ethical-social life of the humans in particular. In doing so we would review his
humanist understanding of Marxism and relate it to the strands of thought within
socialist humanism. It is instructive to see to what extent DKBs Socialist
Humanism was shaped by his understanding of the 19th century reformist thought
and on the other hand how this very understanding was developed further due to
his socialist humanism. This complementariness has implications of the political-

ideological character for the practice of social transformation in India, as it opens
up the possibilities of convergence between different progressive strands engaged
in this process- mainly Communist/Socialist and Ambedkarite. We plan to
discuss this issue in the next chapter.

Major Themes in D.K.Bedekars perception of Socialist

DKB has written only a few articles/essays which would explain his
understanding of Marxism/ Marxist theory of Social Transformation and nowhere
has he presented a systematic/rigorous account of the same. Therefore the
understanding of Marxism that one receives from his writings is in no way
exhaustive. Nevertheless, his writings on this question are certainly indicative as
to the uniqueness of his emphases as against the standard understanding of
Marxism prevalent in the Communist/Socialist circles during DKBs times.
However this uniqueness is only relative to this as similar interpretations were put
forth by Marxists in the Post-Stalin period which (notwithstanding the differences
amongst them) can be brought under the rubric of Socialist Humanism. Although
one cannot claim indubitably that DKB arrived at similar interpretations
independently the very fact that he did and anchored it in his specific/concrete
conditions testifies his uniqueness. Specificity of his Socialist Humanism would
become clearer as we shall discuss his Dharma Vichar in detail.
In an essay titled Marx cha Samaj Parivartanacha Drushtikon (Marxs Vision
of Social Transformation) we get an encapsulated understanding of DKBs
perception of Marxism. DKBs basic premise is that Marxism is primarily
concerned with a revolutionary transformation of society but that is only a means
to an end and the end is the transformation of the conditions of humans. (Bedekar
1968) Thus he recognizes Marxism as first and foremost humanism and hence to
understand the principal features of Marxism is to understand the specific
character of its humanism. Having done so he sees Marx in continuum (and

advance over) with the European enlightenment tradition and also refers to three
component parts- British Political Economy (labour theory of value), French
Socialism and German Philosophy (dialectical method) - synthesized in Marxism.
He does explicitly argue in an article on Marx that that Marxism is an heir to the
principle of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity and conceives socialism as a realization
of these ideals and particularly freedom of the human individual. (Bedekar 1968)
Conceiving this continuum has been a hallmark of socialist humanism in general
and in Indian conditions where ideas of enlightenment liberalism have arrived
recently it assumes particular salience. (Only with this perception of continuum
could DKB have grasped the relevance of 19th century socialist humanist
thought). Appreciation of Marxs humanism makes DKB argue against an
economist interpretation of Marxism and says that the motive force behind
Marxism is the emancipation of the humanity from the slavery of the means of
life for the fullest-all round development of human capacities. Therefore it calls
for a struggle against those conditions where this development is hindered and
human essence is alienated from humans. (Bedekar 1968) Thus the Problem of
alienation emerges as the central question around which DKBs interpretation of
Marxist humanism evolves. Crux of the social transformation, therefore is dis-
alienation i.e. realization of human essence. Possibility of dis-alienation rests on
two interlinked forces- on one hand an increase in human knowledge of the forces
of nature through the progress in science and thereby self-knowledge and on the
other hand development in forms of human association and technology. This is
actually a conception of a double freedom of different kind which consists of
freedom from oppressive natural conditions and oppressive human conditions.
(Cornforth 1972) DKB does conceive alienation as a form of unfreedom as
alienated humans are subjected to the forces standing outside humans (which are
created by humans themselves).Conception of a realization of human essence has
its traces in the tradition of romanticism and DKB indeed acknowledges the
romantic influence on Marx. However he points out that since Marx recognizes
the freedom in the sense of expanding frontiers of human knowledge, the
realisation of human essence is not a mere return to primitivity. It

acknowledges the progress under alienated conditions (alienated progress) and the
realization of human essence entails achievement of human freedom at a
higher/advanced stage of the human history. (Bedekar 1968) Having argued for
Human Freedom as the goal of Marxism DKB argues against the narrow class-
interest based argument which reduces class-struggle to mere class interests and
misses the larger Universalist character of the class struggle ( proletariat or
working class is a universal class whose emancipation is inseparable from the
emancipation of entire humanity). (Bedekar 1953) DKB notes that this argument
has an underlying optimism and the only foundation for that can be in the human
creativity, capacity of conscious purposive action which has made possible the
progress in human history. The reality of the progress of the humanity from the
Stone Age to where it has reached is the only promise for the future and beyond
this there is no transcendental/spiritual sanction for that. In this sense it is a
progressive optimism which is critical of a social pessimism. (In his literary
criticism DKB has critically dealt with the variants of social pessimism which
have emerged in the shadows of fascism- two world wars and the looming threat
of nuclear war)
DKB has built up his understanding of Marxism through a constant engagement
with the prevalent ideological strands/schools of thought in Marathi intellectual-
political world. This engagement would either be in the form of a dialogue or a
critique of the position put forth by the concerned strands/schools and through
which DKB expressed his understanding of Marxism. Basically DKBs effort was
to take up the burning questions of the day as posed in the prevalent
schools/strands and to pose them in Marxist way if not point towards its solution
from a Marxist perspective.

Recovery of Human essence and difference with Vinobas Sarvodaya

In his critical review of the Sarvodaya critique of Marxism, titled as Saamya Yog
ani Marx chi Bhoomika ( Saamya Yog and Marxist Position) DKB posits that the
fundamental difference between Sarvodaya conception of Samya-Yog and
Marxism is at the level of their conceptions of human essence. (Bedekar 1968)
DKB acknowledges the Sarvodaya attempt to come to terms with the problem of
the inhuman conditions of human existence and estrangement of human essence
as Samya-Yog sets before itself the recovery of human essence as the principal
task. Sarvodaya position is to posit that humans possess an Atman- which is in
unity with the universal transcendental being and the recovery of the human
essence is Atma-Dnyan- the true knowledge of the atman. This knowledge is to
be harmonized with the science (or scientific knowledge) for the all round
spiritual development of the humans. DKB deploys the concept of Alienation in
his critique of Sarvodaya position as he argues that their conception of spiritual
development of humans is an alienated one based on the notion of atman. If the
atman is confused with Human Essence a prima facie similarity between this
position and Marxist position of the recovery of human essence (as dis-alienation)
can be posited and in the Marathi intellectual/activist circles harmonization of
Advaita Vedanta with communism/socialism did acquire particular currency.
Steering clear of this confusion DKB shows the notion of atman to be a product of
the human alienation as it is a creation of humans themselves which as it were
stands outside and subjects them to it. Whereas Marxist pose the problem of the
recovery of human essence by responding to the human actuality and pursue the
knowledge of human conditions which would emancipate the human mind from
the conceptions that enfeeble and degrade human life. According to DKB the
Advaita-Vedanti position of the unity with Atman and Brahman underlying
Sarvodaya conception may provide solace and a sense of purpose to human life
but it is inadequate to acquire the knowledge of human actuality to come to terms
with human limitations. This is possible only with the process of dis-alienation
and according to DKB the task before Marxists is to achieve this process through
knowledge and praxis. It is important to note that DKB poses the difference
between sarvodaya and Marxism as between Idealism and Materialism but the
materialism for DKB is not the mechanical/abstract materialism but where the
active side or the element of the human agency in shaping the material reality is

Anti-Innatism/Primordialism and centrality of Practice to human life
Progressive character of this socialist humanism is evident in its opposition to an
inherently conservative notions of primordialism or innatism whereby violence,
competition, avarice et al are considered to be innate in human nature. DKB
brings out the Marxist argument that these phenomena are not natural in the sense
of being innate/invariant but are products of the determinate social relations ( and
therefore products of human activity itself) based on exploitation/humiliation of
humans by humans. (Bedekar 1968) The role of the ideology (predominantly
religious ideology in pre-modern conditions) in fostering these phenomenon must
also be taken into account under the conditions of alienation the ideology is a
form of alienated consciousness. The ideas and values having an influence over
the human life are the creation or a product of the human practice which are
deemed to have an origin outside human life and human life is subjected to their
authority. Likewise what are relative and contingent features borne out of
determinate social conditions are taken to be human nature and the conception
of human good or purpose of life is shaped accordingly. According to DKB with
the increasing human self-knowledge and the laws of nature through advancement
in science possibility of dis-alienation is opened up however under the conditions
of alienated progress this advancement has created the possibility of the
destruction of human society as well. However for him an ethical injunction (in
the sense of religious spirituality) into science is not the solution, in fact he is
critical of an outside injunction and considers dis-alienation and freedom as the
ethical conditions which would emerge from within the human life and practice.
(Bedekar 1968) In this sense DKB is opposed to any aprioristic conception of
ethics (as these would indeed be a form of alienation) and insistent on the
formulation of ethical life through a conscious engagement with human actuality.
The difference between ethics and ethical is germane to socialist humanism as the
earlier s aprioristic (and can have religious or quasi-religious forms) whereas the
later is practice oriented and thus attuned to a philosophically materialist position.

Socialist Humanism and Freedom of the Human Individual
IN DKBs humanist understanding of Marxism the question of the Individual
Freedom features quite centrally. In fact DKB affirms his commitment to
socialism on the grounds that it can realize the individual freedom in fullest sense.
(Bedekar 1953) (Bedekar 1968) There are several strands to DKBs formulation
of the question of individual freedom and these are pulled together in the
underlying ethical vision of socialist humanism. DKB develops this problem
through a critique of Mechanical Materialist distortion of Marxism on one hand
and Subjective Idealist variants of individualism on the other. According to DKB
Marxism concerns itself with the questions of individual freedom, free will,
spiritual development of the individual which are the questions posed by the
thinkers of enlightenment and Marx belongs to that tradition. (Bedekar 1952)
(Bedekar 1968) However unlike the mechanical materialists or the idealists
Marxism does not either conceive the development of the human world as
determined by the laws of the matter or as the successive unfolding of the spirit.
Human life therefore is not bound or strictly determined by the laws of matter
(and individuals are not merely constituted by the material properties but there is
active side to the human life which shapes their individuality) nor it can
transgress the objective reality through its free will which would be a form of
subjective idealism. (Cornforth 1974) Humans can acquire knowledge of the laws
of nature as well the laws of human and social development for the fullest
development of human capacities and realization of human happiness, which is
ultimately of the human individual and cannot be reduced or collapsed into the
social good. (Schaff 1970) This understanding of Marxism foregrounds the role of
human agency in social transformation unlike in the mechanical materialist
conceptions which had been dominant among the Marxists during DKBs times.
Such mechanical conceptions treat the social transformation (and the realization
of socialism-communism) as an inevitable and determinate form of the matter in
motion. Of course this inevitability thesis does not entail a withdrawal from
practice but it hinders the recognition of the specific task of forging the new
revolutionary consciousness of the agent. DKB notes that the process of social

transformation necessarily has to be a conscious and purposive practice of the
human individuals and thus the question of human values and ethical life as
necessary elements in forging this consciousness become important questions in
his vision of social transformation. (Bedekar 1968) (Bedekar 1970)This alacrity
towards the ethical questions which is borne out of a specific understanding of
Marxism is a prominent reason for his appreciation of the 19th century reformist
tradition as the logical predecessor of the socialist/communist movement which is
never explicitly claimed by these movements as it was done by Ambedkar.
Centrality accorded to the questions of human agency is one of the reasons why
DKBs primary intellectual concern has been the critique of religion in specific
Indian context. The dominant religious ideology in Indian conditions has been
that of Hindu Dharma based on karma theory where the problem of the individual
cannot even be posed- this is in operation through varna/caste which is the
defining feature of Hindu Dharma as an individual necessarily has to belong to a
specific varna/caste and cannot belong to Hindu Dharma as an individual.
(Sardesai 1997) Therefore the critique of dharma becomes the necessary first step
to even pose or formulate the questions of ethical life and human values-
possibility of which rests on the conception of the free will of the agent. (We have
seen this argument in DKBs critique of Tilak in last chapter and its philosophical
foundation is in this specific understanding of Marxism seen in continuum with
enlightenment tradition which foregrounds the question of agency.)
Even as DKB poses the questions of the ethical life, spiritual development of
individual since these questions are posed with reference to concrete human
practice he doesnt fail to notice their necessarily social character. The realization
of the individuality of the humans is a necessarily social process since the
conditions of possibility of human existence is through social production-which is
the differentia specifica of humans from other living beings whose life process is
given by nature. (Schaff 1970) Conception of a self-sufficient, self contained
atomized individual has the implication of the adoption of aprioristic notions of
ethics which ironically diminishes the role of the agent. (Schaff 1970) DKB
develops this argument in his critical review of M.N.Roys New Humanism.

(Bedekar 1956) According to DKB the underlying premise of New Humanism is
that of Man as a rational individual and therefore moral as the reason in man is an
echo of the harmony of the universe. DKB argues that if the human is considered
as an atomized individual then either it is to be conceived an animal driven by
instincts or an outside source of morality is to be posited such as god as a moral
governor. (D. K. Bedekar 1956) Therefore in New Humanism the postulate of
harmony in physical universe becomes central which is a relapse into a form of
mysticism. This mysticism is a logical outcome of removing the ethical questions
from the actual human practice and confining it to contemplation. New
Humanism deems any relation between individual and collective to be a
hindrance to its development as contemplative relation to harmony in physical
universe does not require any such relation. According to DKB this very belief in
individual development is mystical as it turns away from the human actuality.
(Bedekar 1956) Aversion to actual practice and recourse to contemplation (linked
to aprioristic notions) is borne out of the anxiety of or even actual experience of
the fallibility (i.e. the occurrence of error) in the course of such practice- DKB
notes that in case of M.N.Roy it could have been the excesses and mistakes
committed in the functioning of communist movement or the socialist states.
However occurrence of error is observed in the case of any actual experimentation
and DKB argues that once the ethical is seen as a form of practice it assumes the
character of experimentation where one has to account for the error. (Bedekar
1956) Realisation of ethical values and principles is through this process of
constant experimentation (social practice). This position is in many ways a central
concern in DKBs socialist humanism which insists on the human values and
ethical conceptions to be rooted and faced to the human actuality. (Bedekar 2008)
As we would see later in DKBs critique of Religious Faith that he considers
being inadequate to deal with the human problems precisely for its inability to
come to terms with the human actuality. The insistence on this comes from the
philosophical position of socialist humanism shunning any apriorism and positing
the centrality of the social practice to human life.

Centrality of Critique of Religion to Socialist Humanism

As we have seen in this review of the important motifs of DKBs humanist

understanding of Marxism/Socialism the central concern is to fashion a humanist
conception of ethical life for humans through collective human activity. Questions
of meaning and purpose of life, spiritual development of humans, and relationship
of the humans to outside world which are germane to a conception of ethical life
have been framed in religious terms and religious faith as we shall see later serves
as the foundational understanding for humans in such matters. Therefore any
attempt to fashion a new conception necessarily has to emerge through an
interrogation of the religious conceptions in this regard, in this sense it becomes a
necessary component of the project of secularization. In the countries where the
bourgeois revolution is completed these questions are primarily posed through an
interrogation of capitalism or as a protest against the dehumanization wrought by
capitalism or such questions were brought to the fore in the erstwhile socialist
countries as the questions of building a new society or new human being (and the
inadequacies of the actually existing socialism to that task). It is not our
contention that dehumanization under capitalism is not a concern in the Indian
condition but the persistence of the dehumanizing conditions and practices of pre-
capitalist origin such as caste hierarchy present a more pressing ethical problem.
As these dehumanizing conditions and practices are embedded in religion-in fact
the Hindu Dharma is defined in terms of the practice of varna/caste system-
logical first step for the establishment of a humanist conception of ethical life
would be a critique of the religious foundational understanding- an important part
of the project of secularization. In the Indian conditions shaped/defined by the
caste-hierarchy link between secularization and evolution of a humanist
conception of ethical life is inseparable because question of secularization cannot
simply be reduced to the separation of religion and state or the decline of the role
of religion in public life due to the character of the religion (Hindu Dharma)
defined not by a church like institution or a holy book but by the everyday human
practice. Humanist conception of ethical life is basically an attempt to shape this

everyday human practice and we shall see how DKBs Dharma Vichar responds
to this task.

Basic premise of DKBs Dharma Vichar-Socio-Religious thought-is the position

of being a Sashraddha Nastik- i.e. an atheist with faith. (Bedekar 2008) This
position is contrary to the standard defence of atheism on rational/sceptical lines
whereby reason is deemed to be an adequate criterion of judgment and faith in the
sense of a foundational understanding is seen as a metaphysical construct.
According to DKB this position is not sustainable as he sees the faith as a
character trait of humans and therefore an imminent threat of ashraddha naastik
i.e. a sceptical/rationalist atheist lapsing into the prevalent religious faith.
However it is important that he asserts his position of atheism (which separates
him from the Mono-Theist Secular Humanist tradition) as he categorically states
that the locus of his faith is not in any super-natural or transcendental entity but in
the humans themselves. (Bedekar 2008) As against the religious faith Dharma
Shraddha- he terms his understanding of faith as Dharma Paryayi Shraddha i.e.
faith as a Non-Religious Humanist Foundational Understanding. This position
raises two sets of questions. Firstly what is Shraddha and why it is necessary
and secondly why Dharma-Paryayi and what are its implications. DKBs
Dharma Paryayi shraddha has often been misinterpreted to be another form of
Dharma Shraddha and its peculiarity thereby is glossed over. Answering these
questions therefore is essential to understand DKBs conception of Dharma
Paryayi Shraddha in relation to his Socialist Humanism.

D.K.Bedekars Conception of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha

DKBs position that Shraddha-faith as foundational understanding-not necessarily
in its religious mooring- is a defining feature of human life and activity is based
on Marxist conception of human life. Humans are distinct from the animals by
their capacity of conscious and purposive action as unlike animals human life
activity is not naturally given but is developed through their specific way of
dealing with nature, in which they transform nature and in the process transform

themselves. (Fromm 2004) Given that human history has been made possible
owing to this activity of humans specific way of dealing with nature (social
production-technology) certain basic human properties/capacities are believed to
be existed. (Geras 1985) Shraddha as Foundational Understanding emerges
from this specifically human activity and capacities as a form of consciousness-
and without this foundational understanding human activity would not be and
would not have been possible. (This is an instance of inevitable train of circularity
in any line of thought which does not posit aprioristic first principles.) In his
analysis of this dialectical relationship between humans and nature DKB
introduces the concepts of Viraat Vishwa and Maanush Vishwa. (Bedekar
1995) Viraat Vishwa (VV) means the objective reality existing independent of
humans (mind-independent) and Maanush Vishwa (MV) means the humanized
reality i.e. the appropriation of the objective reality through human social practice
which is necessarily social in character, i.e. it cannot exist independent/outside of
society.( production, scientific practice, art etc). Humans exist in the VV/are part
of objective reality and the VV is the object of human practice/knowledge, and
progress in human history is an outcome of the successive appropriation of the
objective reality by humans. However this is to be conceived in the sense of an
approximation as the vast un-appropriated objective reality always exists outside
the humanized reality. This takes us to DKBs invocation of the human finitude
which he employs quite centrally in his dharma vichar. DKB posits that the
humans as other living beings are finite (this is exemplified in the biological fact
of death) however only humans recognize this fact consciously and this reflects in
the urge of preservation of life. (Jeevit Rakshanachi Prerana in original) .What is
distinctively human is that along with this recognition there exists the urge to
overcome the human limitations which is exemplified in the urge for freedom.
(Bedekar 1995) The urge for freedom is the basis of the expressions of human
creativity such as scientific discoveries-inventions, art, progress in the forms of
human association etc. However these expressions are bound by the fact of
finitude and this dialectic between finitude and urge for freedom is at the basis of
human life. For the continuation of human creativity (social practice in various

forms) in the face of the consciousness of finitude necessitates a certain set of
beliefs which shape the faith in the sense of foundational understanding of human
life. Thus far in the human history this understanding as a form of consciousness
has been essentially articulated in the form of religious faith- either in the form of
Yatu-Nirbhar Magical or Magico-religious belief or Monotheistic Universal
Religions. (Bedekar 1995) Underlying both these forms is distinctive
understanding of the relationship between VV and MV but what unites them is
the framing of the problem of the finitude which n the ultimately shapes the
conception of the VV and MV ;albeit with the differences due to the historical
reasons to which we would turn later in this chapter. (For the convenience of
presentation we would refer to both these forms as religious faith/dharma
shraddha when we counterpose them to Dharma Paryayi Shraddha and mention
them separately while analyzing their distinctive features).

Shraddha as a Foundational Understanding for Human Practice

Religious faith is essentially based on the conceptual suppression of the dialectic
of the finitude and freedom as it emphasizes the infinite over finite, absolute over
relative and unbound character of the spirit (atma) over the physical limitations.
(Bedekar 1995) Religious faith is based on the position that the natural world
inhabited by the humans is the dependency of the super-natural and humans are
not merely natural beings but have a stake in the supernatural world. (Cornforth
1972) According to this position even if humans have the limitations of their
physical being they can overcome these by achieving communion/unity with the
god/transcendental being and humans are a component or a form of this
transcendental being/spirit. (Bedekar 2008) Since transcendentalism is the basis of
religious faith in all its forms the relationship between Humans and outside world
is understood with reference to it. Magico-Religious faith is premised upon a
conception of immediate identity between the domain of the super-
natural/transcendental world and the natural world and the laws which are
believed to be governing them also determine the human world. In advanced
religious faith human world is conceived as being apart from the external world or
nature and with the mediation of a god or a transcendental entity unity is

established between the two. (Bedekar 1995) In monotheist religions god is
conceived to be the creator of the world who governs the natural world and the
human beings created in the image of god inhabit in this world can achieve unity
with the external/natural world through a unity with god through the agency of
prophet or holy book. (Cornforth 1972) However even if one privileges human
agency (over the agency of book/prophet) the human being can be conceived to
be at unity with transcendental being and thus acting in consonance with ones
conscience one can realize the divine order. Therefore at the core of this position
are the conception of a world external to humans and human world which has a
consciousness and a purpose of its own. Implication of this position for ethical-
social life of individuals is evident- ethical behaviour is the realization of the
divine/supernatural order or purpose. Human values (of social-ethical life,
aesthetic etc.) are thus heteronomous and subordinated to the
divine/supernatural/transcendental values which are supreme. Human values are
but a means for the realization of the pre-ordained supreme value. According to
DKB this conception of social-ethical life enfeebles or cripples human beings
since it does not have any scope for human agency and creativity. Only freedom
available under this conception is to obey or disobey the rules of practice deemed
to be moral but agent is not free to fashion the conception of morality itself.
(Bedekar 2008) Such conceptions also turn humans away from this-worldly
character of the problem of human values and actuality of the ethical life to be
realized in this world. This position cannot guarantee the realization of human
values or ethical life as it provides an escape route for the humans to be sinful and
the god bestowing mercy upon them- parallel in the Hindu Dharma ( or generally
in any yatu-nirbhar dharma) is the offering of prayashchitta. (Bedekar 2008) In
the quest for an autonomous, this-worldly conception of human values and ethical
life in the actuality of human life, DKB formulates the conception of Dharma-
Paryayi Shraddha which comes to terms with human finitude while having a
dialectical conception of finitude and freedom which is a precondition to account
for human creativity and agency. (Bedekar 1995) Obviously this alternative
shraddha meant to replace the earlier forms of faith would have a totally different

understanding of the relationship between human world and the external objective
reality. This new understanding is made possible by the increasing human
knowledge of the laws of nature and human self-knowledge through it. Even
though DKB does not believe that science or scientific practice in itself can be the
basis of human values and ethical life he acknowledges its role in extending the
frontiers of human self-knowledge, which would have implications for the
conception of ethical life and human values. (Bedekar 1995) DKB quite explicitly
acknowledges the role of Darwin as the theory of evolution showed the humans to
have evolved from animals i.e. primates and in the form of evolution they have
acquired certain distinctive capacities such as developed consciousness and
complex nervous system and certain physical features which set them apart from
the animals. (Mayr 1995) This self-knowledge on part of humans (or the
possibility of it) of their species-specific features is essential for humans to come
to terms with their finitude which would endow them with a sense of humility and
responsibility which has thoroughgoing implications for human social-ethical life.
(Bedekar 2008) Basically the conception of absolute truth or complete
understanding is foreign to the practice of science as it talks of approximate truth.
Every advance in scientific knowledge is a further approximation to the truth and
thus the human knowledge of objective reality is always finite even as it is
progressively increasing. This account would hold given that there has been
progress in science, which is evident with the increasing human knowledge of the
laws of nature. (Cornforth 1962) This would hold for the human social practice in
general given that there has been progress in human history, however according to
the logic of DKBs argument this progress would never be complete but always
confined by human finitude. Nevertheless the very fact that the progress occurs
and has occurred testifies to the urge for freedom and going beyond the
limitations. In this way increasing human self-knowledge (or its possibility) as a
consequence of scientific progress endows (or can possibly endow) humans with
a realization of their capacities and responsibilities and thereby bringing the
question of human values and ethical life from heavens to the earth. (Marx

How does this self-knowledge open up the possibility of fashioning a faith going
beyond and replacing religious faith/ dharma paryayi shraddha as a humanist
foundational understanding? For this we would have to go back to DKBs
understanding of the relationship of VV and MV. After having done that we can
apprise its relation to the question of human values and ethical life in a better

Centrality of Human Social Practice to Dharma Paryayi Shraddha

DKB clearly states that the objective reality external to humanized reality i.e. VV
does not have a consciousness of its own. It is inert in so far as it can not
intervene in humanized reality and does not have a purpose of its own-it is deaf,
dumb, blind and lifeless. (Muke,Andhale,Bahire ani Mattha in original). (S.
Bedekar 2001)VV exists out there and human action is confined to
appropriating it but cannot determine or shape its motion, thus the human life is
confined to the realm of humanized reality and activity in it ( production, science,
art, social-relations and forms of human association) depends solely on human
action. (Even though it is made possible by the fact of humans existing in
objective reality.) Therefore the MV is on one hand connected to the VV (since
it is appropriated out of it) and other hand to the psycho-spiritual life of humans.
This relationship between VV and MV does not leave scope for the understanding
of immediate identity or difference and identity through the divine/supernatural
agency between the external world and human world. However according to DKB
the urge for freedom and going beyond limitations entails an urge to establish
unity with the external world i.e. objective reality. This urge is expressed in the
forms of human creativity (science, art, sex, praxis of social transformation)
through which humans are continuously engaged in establishing this unity.
(Bedekar 1995) However this unity is not permanent and therefore human social
practice (thus the basis for the possibility of human progress) has to be (and has
indeed been) a continuous process. Shraddha or Faith is the basis for the
continuation of this human practice and in that sense it is the foundational
understanding, however having done away with any transcendental or
supernatural basis for human world, the only foundation is the fact of humanized

reality and possibility of human social practice. (Bedekar 1995) (Bedekar
2008)Through the human social practice psycho-spiritual life of humans is also
developed and enriched further, reflecting in a development in knowledge, ethical
conceptions, aesthetic values, this taken together lay down the possibility of a
humanist foundational understanding.

Necessity of Shraddha beyond Reason and Moral Conscience

In DKBs conception, Shraddha is seen as the basis or foundation for the
continuation of human practice and Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is seen to be
consistent with the transformative practice. Therefore it is necessary to delve
deeper into the question of the basis/foundation of human practice to see the
specificity of DKBs position.
Human practice oriented towards the realization of human values and
transformation of the human life (i.e. the process of social transformation) entails
a capacity to make judgment which makes the action possible. Judgment is
necessitated by the situations of conflict over the course to be taken for the
achievement of human well-being, which inevitably arise due to the existence of
actual social contradictions. Judgment and the resolution of the conflict are
necessary for the continuation of human practice since it is a conscious and
purposive action. At this point the question of the foundation for the judgment
(and thereby activity) arises which has been addressed by the religious faith.
However as we have seen before the resolution sought through religious faith is
not a resolution as such for it does not resolve but suppress the contradiction.
Quest for seeking a this-worldly foundation for this judgment has led to two
directions. One positing the moral conscience to be the foundation and the other
positing reason. In E.V.Ilyenkovs relatively unknown essay on Humanism and
Science one finds a socialist humanist formulation of this problem. Ilyenkov
traces the inadequacy of Reason and Conscience alone and points towards a
socialist humanist foundational understanding which in essence comes close to
DKBs Dharma Paryayi Shraddha. Therefore we shall do brief exegesis based on
Ilyenkovs argument for it can explain DKBs position better.

Inadequacy of Reason and Conscience as the foundation
According to the first position the arbiter for the judgment is the moral conscience
which has to be instilled in the agent. Moral conscience acts a regulator on human
action or as a categorical imperative which specifies action. This position being
premised upon the inadequacy of the reason (and its highest manifestation
deemed to be in science) which is inherently incapable of making a value
judgment, the moral conscience is deemed to be in operation fully autonomous of
independent of reason. (Ilyenkov 1977) In the case of a conflict between the two
the moral conscience is deemed superior and right of the judgment is solely
granted to it. Therefore the moral conscience is placed over and above the human
activity as the autonomous criterion of higher truth, and the human activity is a
mode for the concretization of moral principles, a means to the realization of
moral ends. (Ilyenkov 1977) This position is akin to abstract humanism whereby
actions according to the moral conscience are considered end in themselves and
deemed to possess intrinsic value- and thus represent a form of human well-being-
irrespective of the circumstances and consequences. (Ilyenkov 1977)
Second position argues that the criterion for judgment is reason and human action
is guided by the scientific analysis of the conditions. This position entails that the
value judgments differ from the scientific or rational judgment only in form, the
first takes the form of an imperative and the other is descriptive. Value judgment
express the descriptive in the form of imperative, thus ought follows from is.
Morality is therefore a means of the realization of what has been established by
the science and therefore the judgment in the case of conflict is to be arrived at by
application of reason-rational calculation of the consequences. (Ilyenkov 1977)
Moral principles are thus constructed according to the reason and follow from the
scientific inquiry. As against the first position this argument is premised on the
potential infallibility of the reason in arriving at truth i.e. being free from the
possibility of error. This position is akin to a form of scientism whereby the
questions of human well-being are decided according to a fully worked out or
laid-down scientific schema. (Ilyenkov 1977)

Both these positions are premised upon the perception of conscience and reason
as principally heterogeneous modes of coming to terms with the world and if the
scientific advantage of the later position seem to lay in its concreteness as
opposed to the abstractness of the other, then the first one seems to be morally
superior in shunning the instrumentalist view of human values. In terms of being a
guide or prescription for life and activity of humans the first one prescribes
supplementing it with moral principles (with an underlying assumption that it is
already suffused with reason) and the second one prescribes a dose of rationality
through scientific education. (Ilyenkov 1977) In both the cases it is to be
introduced from without and in the case of a conflict the arbiter is to be
conscience and reason respectively. Inadequacy of both these positions can be
spotted in their case for the infallibility of the conscience and reason respectively
as the possibility of a moral conflict ( arising out of moral progress-transformation
in moral values) questioning the efficacy of moral regulator is overlooked in the
first position and the other is oblivious to the possibility of error in scientific
analysis ( again arising out of scientific progress i.e. increase in human knowledge
of the reality) and thereby faults in the scientific analysis. Underlying cause of
this is the failure to understand morality as well as science as the forms of actual
social human practice and positing them outside of it thereby deifying and hence
alienating them. As we shall see both these conceptions are a clear instance of
what Marx calls Fetishism and thereby theoretically incapable of providing a
this-worldly foundation for human action and judgment.

Towards a Non-Alienated Humanist Foundation

Morality or Conceptions of value acquire their meaning only in terms of human
social practice. Certain actions or state of affairs acquire moral value as they are
incorporated in the system of human activity i.e. without the specific character of
human social practice- the way humans deal purposively and consciously with the
nature - any conception of moral values would be inconceivable. (Bakhurst 1991)
In other words moral values are produced by the humans in their life activity and
to put them over and above human activity by making it the sole arbiter for
judging and prescribing human action is alienation construed as the process where

the forms of human activity face humans as standing independently outside them.
This conception is alienating for another reason as the human activity is
considered to be a means for the realization of morality-or the dictates of the
moral conscience. If one accounts for the moral progress in human history
whereby forms of human association have increasingly realized human values
then the role of human social practice in realizing these conditions is to be
recognized. In fact the very nature of human practice is such that it is a continuous
appropriation and transformation of the nature ( as we have seen in DKBs
conceptions of Viraat Vishwa and Maanush Vishwa) which transform the human
life itself. With such a conception the position of moral conscience outside the
human practice becomes untenable in so far it does not emerge from the human
actuality but as a transcendental one.
Likewise the scientistic conception of the infallibility of reason is also turned
away from the human actuality as with the human-nature relationship noted above
the advance in the scientific knowledge is achieved through human practice in the
form of successive approximation to the truth. Therefore the possibility of error
always exists and which can be overcome through practice alone ( in this case
scientific practice) and this overcoming signifies progress. This position also
entails alienation of science/reason from humans as it is deified-construed as an
absolute idea or notion whose realization or working out is the human life, all
human creation i.e. the whole human history. Thereby human activity is simply
the means of this realization. (Ilyenkov 1977) Whereas in actuality it is humans
who have created and continue to create science, reason is a specifically human
capacity developed through the humans specific way of dealing with nature.
Therefore science and reason are just the means for the well-being of human life
and thus conceiving humans to be the executors of its design is alienating from
humans what they themselves have created. Furthermore with the possibility of
error in scientific practice that we have noted, the design itself can be beset with
error. In such a scenario activity dictated by the reason can even threaten human
well-being. Deified reason which is incapable of self-criticism and
acknowledgement of error can cause downrightly erroneous actions leading to

human suffering. (Ilyenkov 1977) This again underscores necessity of founding
the judgment in actual human activity itself which is also reflexive in nature and
can correct itself over time, i.e. by coming to terms with and overcoming error. If
the first position for its abstractness is ineffective since it remains unmindful of
the actual conditions or the context of the action then the second position despite
being seemingly concrete is equally counterproductive since it can aid the cover
up of the true nature of certain ideas in the name of reason and hence distort the
judgment. Since no formula or pre-determined basis for judgment is possible and
desirable the foundation has to be located in the synthesis of Conscience and
Reason in actual human practice. Socialist Humanism can be conceived as this
synthesis and thus practice-oriented Dharma Paryayi Shraddha becomes an
essential component of socialist humanism. However this process is of continuous
affirmation through practice and Dharma Paryayi Shraddha even as it is a basis
for the continuation of practice is in itself affirmed and reaffirmed in practice.
This separates it from religious faith or we can say it dialectically negates the
religious faith by retaining the element of affirmation and qualitatively
transforming into a function of practice.

Principle of Maanuski and Humanist Foundation for Social-

Ethical Life
Dharma Paryayi Shraddha opens up the possibility of having a humanist
foundation for human values and conception of ethical life. First of all it brings
them in the realm of human practice by denying any transcendental basis or
sanction. Thus human values are not heteronomous or subordinated to any
supreme value and are autonomous in the sense of being an end in itself. However
autonomy of human values for DKB doesnt entail that their basis is in the
conscience of individual in the manner of Kant as some commentators have
interpreted his position to be. (Rege 1993) For DKB the foundation for values is
in the Maanusha Vishwa i.e. in the social practice of humans in their
engagement with objective reality/nature. In this sense the basis is not reducible to
an isolated individual and external to it in this-worldly products of human

practice. If there is no transcendental sanction for a conception of good it
necessarily has to be fashioned through human social practice and therefore there
is no escape for humans from the ethical responsibility of fashioning it and its
realization also depends upon the human social practice. DKB says that the
precondition for the realization of the end of human happiness is that humans
should assume the responsibility of ethical behaviour and observance of
Maanuski. (Bedekar 2008) This principle has been invoked by Phule and
Ambedkar and we shall see in the next chapter how this principle is at the core of
his Dhamma which can open up a dialogue of this heterodox tradition with
socialist humanism. Principle of Maanuski presupposes a sense of responsibility
and reciprocity on part of every human individual towards each other and which
requires personalization of human relations. Under conditions of alienation the
relations between humans are depersonalized as they are subjected to impersonal
forces which they themselves unwittingly created but over which they have no
control. (Fromm 2004) Religious faith is such an impersonal force and thus its
replacement by Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is dialectically related to the problem
of dis-alienation. This relation is dialectical because even as realization of
Dharma Paryayi Shraddha would require dis-alienation - in the sense of human
relations becoming fully reasonable and intelligible to them- which would be
possible only with the ending of exploitation and humiliation of humans by
humans. However it can be possible only through a struggle against exploitation
and humiliation for which a consciousness of the same is required, and this
consciousness does not emerge automatically but has to be forged purposively.
Ethical Conceptions and Human Values consistent with Dharma Paryayi
Shraddha contribute towards this end. This is a crucial link between the ethical
conceptions/human values and social transformation which is a logical outcome
of DKBs socialist humanism even though he did not or could not work it out
fully. However he does show (as we have seen in the last chapter) a keen
awareness of the ethical aspect of the social reformist thought of the 19th century
and this recognition is in many ways a bridge between 19th century humanism and
socialist humanism. At this point we shall have a closer look at DKB's treatment

of the problem of alienation with reference to the question of shraddha. This is
necessary to grasp the socialist humanist core of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha and
his Dharma Vichar in general. This exegesis would take us to a fuller
understanding of DKBs conception of ethical life of humans which is organically
united with his conception of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha. We would also be able
to grasp then the specificity of his understanding of socialist humanism as well.

Alienation/Dehumanisation under Religious Faith

Problem of alienation features quite centrally in DKBs works and its
applicability for his dharma vichar is consistent with the Marxist critique of
religion which considers religion to be a form of alienated consciousness of
humans. Religious ideas are a reflection in human consciousness of the alienation
of human relations. (Petrosyan 1971) In an essay titled Dharma ani Manavi
Moolye ( Religion and Human Values),engaging with the argument that the true
religion does not discriminate between human beings and sanction oppressive
inhuman practices DKB points out that for the sake of argument one can accept
that the cruelties perpetrated in the name of religion were indeed a distortion of
true religion. But this begs the question what is the defining feature of true
religion. DKB identifies this feature in the notion of Paavitrya i.e. ritual purity
or sanctity. (Bedekar 2008) Religion introduces a fundamental dualism of
human/natural and supernatural/transcendental whereby the earlier which is
temporal and changeable and the later is eternal and changeless and endowed with
greater purity. Division of the entire world between the entities that are endowed
with greater purity and the others as lesser and then continuing this chain further
has been a feature of all religions in varying degree. This notion of purity is a
creation of humans in their social practice however in its alienated religious form
it appears to stand outside humans and exercises its power or authority on human
ideas and human life independently. (Bedekar 1962) Therefore the notion of
purity does not remain confined to the realm of ideas but becomes and has been a
motive force in human social practice. DKB points out the manifestation of this

notion in its most dehumanizing and degrading form to be in the Varna system
and the practice of untouchablity. (Bedekar 2008)DKB clearly states that while
Varna and Caste system is based on the exploitative division of labour but its real
foundation is not in the division of labour but in the notion of the purity
determined by birth. (Bedekar 2008) Division based on purity/impurity is
reinforced by the exploitative division of labour. Hierarchy of varna/caste is not
merely based on the ownership of property but primarily on the endowment of
ritual purity whereby Brahmins are endowed with greatest purity and at the lowest
rung are the castes deemed untouchable which are considered most
impure/polluted. DKBs originality lies in the way he relates this to alienation and
opens a new possibility of understanding caste in Marxist framework. (Bedekar
2008) (Bedekar 1968) Once the question of paavitrya and its dehumanizing and
degrading consequences in terms of varna/caste system are linked to the problem
of alienation, overcoming the dehumanization is related to the task of dis-
alienation. As the locus of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is human social practice
and its foundation is in the humanized reality, realization of human essence is the
corresponding ethical principle. As we have seen before the notion of paavitrya/
purity-sanctity is an alienated form of consciousness it entails an alienation of
humans from their human essence. DKB expresses the realization of human
essence as Maanuski and counterpoises it to the notion of paavitrya. (Bedekar
2008) Principle of Maanuski is a descriptive one as it is based on actual human
social practice and the human capacities which make this practice possible but on
the other hand it is also an evaluative principle as it provides a criterion to judge
the desirability of institutions and ideas. With this criterion dehumanizing and
humiliating character of varna and caste system is brought to the fore as it stands
in blatant violation of the principle of maanuski. DKBs position is certainly
unique in Marxist tradition in India where caste has either been understood with
reference to relations of production and even when it has been analysed as an
ideology Marxists have generally failed to capture the dehumanizing and
humiliating character inherent in the varna/caste system. Furthermore DKB
establishes a direct connection between religion-Hindu dharma in this context-

and the practice of caste and untouchablity which makes the question of the
emancipation from the caste system theoretically inseparable from the
emancipation from the religious world view. (This position brings him in close
affinity with Dr. Ambedkar and we shall discuss the possibility of convergence
and its implications in next chapter.) Grasping the full import of DKBs analysis
of the notion of purity-sanctity associated with religious faith and its social
implications, would take us to his discussion of the Yatu-Nirbhar Shraddha-
Magical or Magico Religious Belief. As we have seen earlier in this chapter (and
also in 1st chapter with reference to his discussion of early Christianity) DKB
makes a distinction between Yatu-Nirbhar Dharma and Universal-Monotheist
Religions where the earlier is based on conception of immediate identity
between human world and the external world and the later is based on a
conception of separation between the two and their identity through a
transcendental/supernatural entity. (Bedekar 1995) Notion of purity-sanctity
emerges from the magico-religious belief and ritual practices.

Yatu-Nirbhar Hindu Dharma and Problem of Social-Ethical Life

Here we would attempt a brief outline of DKBs analysis of Magico-Religious
Belief as outlined in his essays on this question. (Bedekar 2008) Primarily this
belief or world view rests on the notion of there being a yatu-dravya ( Substance
endowed with magico-religious properties) which pervades and determines the
world. It is a force which can manifest the powers nascent in it and this it can
have creative as well destructive and regulative capacity and it rests in all living-
non-living entities to greater or lesser degree. Ritual practices emerging from this
conception are either to obtain the power from yatu-dravya or to direct to for
desired ends. Underlying the rituals of sacrifice (human or animal) lies this
magical belief that by doing so the powers inherent in yatu-dravya can be
transfixed or intensified at a particular location. This inevitably leads to the notion
of dual forms of yatu-dravya- the one which can be controlled by human action
for creative ends that is deemed pure-pavitra and the other which is destructive
and cannot be controlled by human action which is considered impure-apavitra.

This dualism pervades the entire world of living and non-living entities with not
only entities but also particular time and places being considered pure or impure
(auspicious/inauspicious, auspicious deities and evil deities such as yaskshas). It
is evident that survivals of these magical beliefs-not only as remnants but also in
more civilized form ( e.g.the ritual of breaking the coconut is a survival of the
ritual sacrifice or practice of applying Vermilion or Kumkum is a survival of the
magical notion that blood is endowed with magical power, taboos associated with
menstruation are also a form of this only that here the blood is endowed with evil
or destructive magical power) are prevalent in the rituals and practices of Hindu-
Dharma. Therefore, DKB posits that the Hindu Dharma is a matured and complex
form of Magico-Religious Belief, distinct from the Universal-Monotheist
Religions. (Bedekar 1995) (Bedekar 2008) However, this continuity between
magico-religious belief and Hindu dharma is not merely in the form of survivals
of rituals and practices but the very core of Hindu Dharma i.e. Karma Theory and
Varna System. DKB as he identifies the basis of varna system in the notion of
purity-sanctity does not miss this link either. (Bedekar 2008) DKB points out that
Notion of Karma is not to be misconstrued with its prevalent meaning in modern
language (which is vocation or practice) but in its traditional meaning where it is
considered a universal supernatural force which determines the (cyclical) motion
of the world. (Bedekar 2008) Human beings are bound by the cycle of karma and
their birth in a particular varna or caste is function of their karma which is
preordained. In this way varna system cannot be seen in separation from the
notion of karma and with the evident magico-religious origins of the notion of
karma a faith based on karma-varna cannot be seen in separation from its
magico-religious origins. (Bedekar 2008) In this way Yatu-Nirbhar character of
Hindu-Dharma comes to the fore and thus (relative to it) the emancipatory
potential of Universal-Mono-Theism as perceived by 19th century reformer-
thinkers. This relatively emancipatory character of mono-theism can be explained
with reference to an ethical aspect of the distinction between Magico-Religious
Belief and Mono-Theist Religious Faith. In earlier case no conception of a human
agency and capacity of moral judgment are possible since the human world in its

immediate identity with the external world endowed with a magical spirit is
determined by the later. Morality therefore is confined to the observance of pre-
ordained rules and distinction between pure and polluted, beyond that no
conception of good is conceivable. In the case of monotheist religions, even as
there is the conception of the natural world being a dependency of the
supernatural their separateness is posited. So, even as the conception of good is
heteronmous (essentially it is in realization of a divine order) it still has to be
realized through human action in accordance with ethical principles-as against
rules. This distinction sustains in theory even though monotheist religions also
ossified into the set of rules and assimilated certain magico-religious practices and
beliefs in their rituals.( e.g. Christianity in Mediveal age)

Caste-Bound Tolerance as a Hindrance to establishment of

One of the factors pointed out by DKB for the long continuity observed in case of
Hindu Dharma is the absence of a decisive conflict between Yatu-Nirbhar
Shraddha and Universal Monotheist religions. (Bedekar 1995) In saying so, DKB
is not oblivious to the Pakhand or Heterodoxy of Buddha Dhamma, which he
considers to be the first universal religion. (Which is atheistic). However Buddha
Dhamma could not decisively uproot the dharma based on Varna System and in
the later stage of Hindu dharma, certain precepts of the dhamma were assimilated
in it and later Buddhism was co-opted. (Kosambi 1972) One of the factors for this
assimilative character is also in the absence of a centralized state ( Mauryan or
Arthashastra State comes closest to being one)founded upon a single religion or
patronizing a single religion which could have contributed to the intensification of
the conflict between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. This assimilative character is
taken for the tolerance in Hindu dharma but this tolerance was within the fold of
the karma based Varna system only. This type of tolerance proves to be a
hindrance for the establishment of humanist conception of ethical life and human
values and performs a historically regressive character as against the Mono-Theist
Heterodoxy (at the time of its inception) which performed a historically

progressive character. (Sardar, Bharatiya Sanskruti ani Samaj Parivartan 1987)
This line of argument has direct bearing on contemporary debates on the
secularism and tolerance and has the virtue of bringing the question of varna
system and caste which has generally remained out of the ambit of such debates.
(Thapar 2013) If the principle of secularism is not confined to the question of the
relationship between state and religion and its bearing on the questions pertaining
to the ethical life of humans is accounted for then the question of caste would
inevitably be a central one to the debates on secularism.

Humanist Conception of Social-Ethical Life consistent with

Dharma Paryayi Shraddha
DKB did not work out a systematic account of his conception of ethical social
life of humans and human values but it is available from his assorted
essays/articles dealing with actual problems facing human society. DKBs
consistent attempt is to understand the ethical character of this problem and
through such a poser rudiments of his own vision of the ethical life/values
emerges, albeit in rudimentary form on several occasions. DKBs constant refrain
is that the all women and men must be taught and they must take efforts to learn
the art of living the life as humans and courageously facing up to the pleasures
and sorrows. However the prevalent ethical conceptions structured around
codified rules of behaviour-notions of purity-rigid morality arrest the human
progress intensifying the disabilities wrought by poverty and the ethic of
competitiveness. This renders all human relations from sex to common friendship
either a matter of coercion or dull and mundane, sapping the creativity out of it.
(Bedekar 2008) This grim depiction of the human condition is an extension of
DKBs constant emphasis on alienation and thus the conceptions of ethical life
and human values must be consistent with the end of dis-alienation.

Recognition of Finitude as a condition for the realization of Human
DKBs approach to the problem of spirituality based on mysticism and
superstition is instructive in this regard, which he has developed in an essay titled
Buwabajicha Bhasmasur- Havoc Wrecked by the Cult of Godmen and
Mystics. (Bedekar 1968) Posing the question that why do the vast masses who
are devotees or disciples of godmen or practice some form of mystical
spiritualism seek refuge in it, DKB answers that underlying this is the quest of
Complete Satisfaction-Poorna Samaadhaan. (Bedekar 1968) This quest is in
response to the recognition of the finitude/limitations by humans in their life
activity which thwarts the realization of absolute satisfaction. Hence they turn
towards god-men or a form of spirituality for a mystical experience for the same.
However there can be motives other than complete satisfaction such as absolute
knowledge or absolute power and the sadhakas i.e. the devotees claim the
experience of such an absoluteness with the siddhas- i.e. the mystics or spiritual
gurus. Underlying notion is that of transcendentalism which we have discussed
before, whereby there is a force behind the world in the form of a god or spirit or
transcendental being and through sadhana- mystical practice- one can achieve
unity with this force to avail absolute satisfaction/knowledge/power. Siddhas are
believed to have achieved this unity and they can transfer the power/knowledge to
the sadhak. The relation between Siddha and Sadhak- the devotee and the guru- is
not a this-worldly relation as in that of a teacher and student but a divine one
which is premised on the feeling of samarpan- total submission. Thus DKB
identifies the basis of this phenomenon in the notions shaped by religious faith
which is based on the conceptual suppression of finitude and transcendentalism,
so it cannot be seen as a mere distortion-deviation but an essential outcome of that
worldview. (Bedekar 1968) At this point DKB returns to his argument about
finitude and argues that real fulfilment of human life can be achieved only by
coming to terms with it. Quest for absolute contentment turns humans away from
the actuality of their life. This creates an attitude of either contempt or withdrawal
towards the real problems facing humans in their social life and this breeds a

sense of fatalism and dormancy which hinder the real spiritual development (in
secular sense) of humans. (Bedekar 1968) This development requires that humans
face their live with courage and a sense of humility (which comes from the
recognition of finitude). This vision of human life outlined by DKB is essential
for the realization of creative capacities of humans as it focuses on the necessity
of human this-worldly activity. (Bedekar 2008) It is also notable that DKBs
argument against mystical spiritualism is different from the standard rationalist
argument which only refutes the veracity of mystical spiritual experience. DKBs
approach is that of a critique which goes to the root of this phenomenon to
diagnose it. Mere refutation does not address the ethical problem at the root of
this phenomenon and leaves it unresolved as it does not have a positive alternative
to offer. Dharma Paryayi Shraddha which acknowledges the dialectic of finitude
and freedom is presented as such an alternative. The prescription that humans
must face their lives to shape it would seem banal but it the society mired in the
web of obscurantism and fatalism which perpetuate and even intensify the
inhuman conditions of life it remains essential to impel human action against such
conditions. DKB invokes another ethical argument against Guru Sampradaya-
cult of mystics/godmen, on the feeling of samarpan- total submission. (Bedekar
2008) He says that this feeling is not consistent with the values of equality and
fraternity. Value of fraternity implies human cooperation but the feeling of
submission of one to the other would hinder that since it would negate the
individuality of the one who submits but also the one who accepts it. (Bedekar
2008) DKB also shows how the feeling of samarpana is part of the worldview
based on a system of the hierarchy of purity-sanctity as the relation between
siddha and sadhak presupposes a similar hierarchy (which is not a functional
hierarchy between student and teacher but a hierarchy based on an otherworldly
notion of purity). So the feeling of submission is essentially degrading and
enfeebling for the humans. (Bedekar 2008)

Metaphysics of Withdrawal to Active-Engagement with Human
DKB highlights another ethical problem with religious spiritualism in his set of
essays critically engaging with various strands of religious spiritualism. (Bedekar
2008) It is inadequate to bring the recognition of the inhuman/degrading
conditions of living where realization of human values is thwarted. In fact in its
withdrawal from the actuality of human condition it makes humans oblivious and
insensitive towards these inhuman/degrading conditions and hinders the
realization of human values as it can be achieved only through conscious human
practice to that end. (Bedekar 2008) The quest for contentment in this religious-
spiritualism is fundamentally asocial as it reduces the question of human
happiness to a transcendental state to be attained through sadhana. DKB argues
that the problem of human suffering and happiness can be addressed only through
social practice in the form of conscious and collective efforts to cultivate human
values and create conditions for their flourishing. (Bedekar 1968) (Bedekar 2008)
This position is identical with the standard progressive-socialist criticism of the
religious-spiritual metaphysics however DKB goes further and argues that human
life can be meaningful only if humans can look at their own life not with a sense
of pity, anxiety or disgust (underlying the withdrawal from it) but with a genuine
openness and curiosity towards the possibilities it has to offer. (Bedekar 1995)
(Bedekar 2008) In this way he pits the metaphysics of engagement (through social
practice) against the metaphysics of withdrawal and Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is
central to this metaphysics. Standard progressive socialist criticism correctly
points out the inadequacies of the religious-spiritual approach towards human life
but the task of evolving an alternative approach to human life is left unattended.
DKBs conception of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is not a new discovery but an
attempt to present this approach towards human life which is implicit in the
humanist ideas of enlightenment and thereby enriches the conception of socialist
humanism. Affinity of this approach with important strands in DKBs
understanding of Socialist humanism- centrality of human agency and practice
based on a progressive optimism- is evident.

Centrality of Practice to the humanist conception of Social Ethical Life

DKBs emphasis on the actuality of the human condition emerges from his
preoccupation with the problem of alienation and the thrust of his critique of the
prevalent religious faith and spiritualism is that it turns away from this actuality
and render metaphysics of the alienated condition. This metaphysics and the
concomitant conceptions of ethical life and human values is inadequate to
formulate the solutions to the problems facing human life or in fact cannot even
formulate the problem correctly. Again it is because of its inability to grasp the
human finitude and limitations and the fundamentally religious conception of
absoluteness. Conception of absoluteness is in itself premised upon the rejection
of the human actuality and positing a notion of human life or human beings which
can attain this absoluteness. This quest for the absolute can address the human
predicament or problems only by shifting the terrain from objective realm (i.e. the
finite human life) to the notional (absolute truth) thereby leaving the actual
problem unaddressed. As we have seen before in DKBs emphasis on social
practice and rejection of apriorism, the formulation and resolution of the problems
of human life (here we are primarily concerned with the problems of social-
ethical nature pertaining to the meaning/purpose of human life and the problems
of the forms of human association) is possible only through human social practice
dealing with the actual material conditions of human life. Only through this
practice which is a constant process- can a humanist metaphysics be evolved
which can address the ethical concerns of the humans and we seen how Dharma
Paryayi Shraddha which has its foundation in human social practice itself- can
contribute to this end. Religious Metaphysics is essentially aprioristic and closed
one as it is not open to the ever-changing material conditions and hence takes the
form of the quest of absolute which is permanent. (Petrosyan 1971) (Fromm
1990) DKB argues that ethical problems before humans must be addressed within
the human limits and therefore in the actual social practice of humans. (Bedekar
2008) Recognition of the finitude of humans entails that the solution cannot be a
pure or absolute one and only through the continuation of social practice can

humans approximate towards the solution. The principal question around which
the humanist-practice oriented metaphysics has to evolve is that how the ethical
capacities of the humans can be strengthened and enriched while they are engaged
in their everyday life. (Bedekar 2008) This means that the ethical questions are
inseparable from the social as what is ethical is to be realized socially and not as
an outside injunction or supplement to the social (like in the case of every
aprioristic notion of morality-religious or otherwise). (Cornforth 1972) (Fromm
1990)This brings to the fore the ethical dimension of the social transformation
which as we have seen is a hallmark of DKBs socialist humanism. It further
clarifies that there is no basis as well as guarantee for the social transformation
outside the social practice of humans and it is not a realization of a preordained
scheme or a fulfilment of any cosmic purpose. This has immense import for the
ethical life of humans as the purpose of human life is firmly cantered in the
human life activity itself and in that sense it is to be treated as end in itself and
hence of supreme value. This is a reaffirmation of the this-worldly character of
this new metaphysics ( hence Dharma-Paryayi) as the religious faith and its
metaphysics is essentially other-worldly as its formulation of the ethical question
hinges upon the introduction of other-worldly/super-natural domain to actual life-
hence this is merely circumventing the problem far from being a solution.
Centrality of the human social practice is the linkage between DKBs conception
of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha (or a humanist foundational understanding) and his
vision of social transformation. Prevalent religious-spiritual faith and metaphysics
hinders the process of social transformation as it precludes the possibility of
humans gaining consciousness of their inhuman/degrading conditions of their
living and thus recognizing the nature of the ethical problem before them. In so
far as it is based on human self-knowledge and constantly oriented towards
human social practice, Dharma Paryayi Shraddha can enable humans to become
conscious of their condition and be a basis for human activity in transforming
these conditions.

Chapter 3
D.K.Bedekars Creative Marxism and
Interface with Gramsci and Ambedkar

In the last chapter we have reviewed DKBs understanding of Socialist

Humanism and the conception of social-ethical life. Critique of Religion/Dharma
Vichar is central in this endeavour and DKBs conception of Dharma Paryayi
Shraddha lays down an outline of a humanist conception of social-ethical life,
consistent with a Marxist/Socialist practice for social transformation.
Appreciation of the ethical dimension of the social transformation is the legacy of
the 19th century reformist-humanist thought and we have seen how DKBs
socialist humanism is advancement over it as it responds to the problems raised
therein. DKBs position is rather exceptional with respect to the orthodox Marxist
intellectual tradition in Maharashtra, especially during his times. However as we
have remarked before, DKBs position is remarkably similar with the Abrahmani
Intellectual tradition in Maharashtra which reaches its summit in the life and
works of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar. Ambedkar has clearly invoked 19th century
reformist-humanist tradition of Phule (as well as Ranade) and throughout his life
and works there is a discernible emphasis on the ethical vision for social
transformation. In this chapter we would seek to explore the possibility of
convergence in Ambedkars and DKBs thought on these matters and thereby
broach the vexed question of the ideological relationship between Ambedkar and
the Socialists/Communists. This is not a mere academic question but has (and has
had) immense implications for the actual practice of social transformation in India
as these are the two most important political streams calling for a thoroughgoing
transformation of the society.

D.K.Bedekars Vision of Socialist Project

DKBs vision of evolving a socialist-humanist conception of social-ethical life for

humans is important for the project of social transformation in general however it
assumes particular salience in Indian conditions as we have seen before. The task
of building the consciousness of masses for the project of social transformation is
not confined to the ideological education and propaganda (even as these are
important tools for it) but necessitates such a conception. This follows from the
position that the social transformation is not conceived merely through the
interests of a particular class but as a universal emancipation which has an
underlying ethical basis. In our review of DKBs understanding of Socialist
Humanism we have discussed the outline of this ethical basis. Here we would
discuss the implications of this understanding for the vision of political practice as
outlined in DKBs works. This would also substantiate the very vision of social
transformation which DKB subscribes to and the priorities and central questions
therein. Broadly speaking it would bring out the unity of theory (contours of
which were discussed in last chapter) and practice in DKBs thought. It should be
noted here DKB has not worked out a coherent understanding of these questions
the way he has on the question of the conception of social-ethical life. However
certain key features can be underscored from his polemical articles and critical
reflections on the actual practice of the communist/socialist movement.

Myth of Janata Janardan and Critique of Spontaneity

In an essay titled Don Bhramanche Daasya (Shackles of Two Illusions) DKB

argues that one of the fundamental flaws in the left (communist and socialist)
political practice in India has been the illusions it has nurtured about the character
of the people or masses. (Bedekar 1970) DKB is critical of the popular
formulation of Janata Janardan and traces its origins back to Tilak. Janata
Janardan in Marathi, means treating masses or people as god and therefore
innately vested with virtues. DKB likens the approach of the left towards the
masses to this conception. Extreme variant of this position on the left is the ultra-

left adventurist notion that the masses are always on the verge of an
insurrectionary action and it is like a proverbial tiger in the cage of exploitation
which is waiting for a revolutionary programme and party to break free from the
cage. Even though this extreme notion is prevalent only on the fringes of the left
DKB argues that the left is in general oblivious to the actual moral condition of
the masses which hinders the left political practice. (Bedekar 1970) DKB shows
how this position is actually a mirror-image of the paternalistic approach of the
right reactionary/conservative parties towards the masses and both the
conceptions basically enfeeble the masses. Only difference being that for a
reactionary/conservative political project enfeebling of masses is not a hindrance
(in fact a necessity) but for any project of progressive social transformation which
depends on collective human practice (we have discussed this vision of social
transformation in 2nd chapter while discussing DKBs socialist Humanism) it is a
drawback. DKB argues that the masses are neither meek and obedient subjects
(praja) nor a courageous and conscious collective and this binary is too simplistic.
In actuality the contradictory character of the human life has to be understood and
the opposing tendencies of courage/cowardice, ignorance/consciousness etc. are
visible at different occasions in human life. Without coming to terms with this
reality of the prevalence of flaws in the human life leading to divisions and
fragmentations which are deep seated. (Role of religious faith in nurturing these
conceptions is evident and thus the centrality of the critique of religion). DKB on
the one hand laments the neglect of the task of consciously engaging and
transforming the deep seated beliefs, everyday practices and prejudices in human
life is and traces it to the misconception of the character of the masses. On the
other hand he notes that the reactionary/conservative forces have cunningly
manipulated these flawed notions, prejudices and fragmentations. (Bedekar 1970)
This tendency can be traced to economism prevalent in the orthodox Marxist
practice (especially in DKBs times) whereby not only the economic demands
were given primacy in the struggle/movement but the very conception of human
life is narrowly confined to the economic life. This is contrary to the starting
premise of Whole Man in Marxism which is at the basis of DKBs argument

when he calls for coming to terms with human actuality without which no clear
understanding of the multi-faceted problems facing the Indian society. The
conception of Whole Man is at the same time an initial theoretical premise and a
condition to be achieved through practice and hence the practice cannot be
confined to the economic questions alone but has to respond the questions facing
the human life in its entirety. (Schaff 1970) (Fischer 1973) (Questions of ethical
kind are sought to be addressed through a humanist conception of ethical life and
with the implication of ethical in social-cultural this conception responds to these
problems as well. We shall discuss this later in this chapter in conjunction with
Dr.Ambedkars position).

Messianism and Enfeeblement of Masses

Continuing with the insistence on the task of shaping the consciousness of masses
DKB brings forth another grave flaw in the approach of the left in India and again
traces its roots to the prevalent cultural ( at the core associated with religious
faith) beliefs which inhibit proper cognition of the concrete conditions. In an
article titled Bhagirathacha Varasa ( Bhgairaths Legacy), DKB argues that the
puranic legend of Bhagirath who brought Ganga from heaven to earth is in many
ways a symbol of how the Hindu mind conceives a great human effort, isolating it
from the mundane -earthly moorings and vesting it with cosmic proportions with
an undercurrent of messianism. (Bedekar 1964) Even though the left would not
believe in the divine intervention of a messiah DKB likens its approach to its own
sense of historic responsibility to messianism. Just like the populism inherent in
the notion of Janata Janardan even this messianism hinders the correct appraisal
of the primary tasks for it again distorts the concrete understanding of concrete
conditions. DKB argues that the source of the strength for the left movement is
the collective human practice shaped by the democratic and socialist norms.
(Bedekar 1964) Democratic and Socialist norms have to be brought to the masses
from without and can be cultivated and fostered through conscious activity. It can
be possible only by critically engaging with the existing practices and moulding
them on democratic and socialist lines. Revolution is not an event but an arduous

and long-stretched process of social transformation which under normal
circumstances (unlike the exceptional ones that prevailed during Bolshevik or
even Chinese Revolution) do not take a form of insurrection. (Bedekar 1964)
Messianism therefore stands against democracy (democracy conceived as a
process of strengthening people where conditions for unfettered exercise of
human agency is made possible) since it enfeebles people by denying them the
role of active agent in shaping their own lives. (Lukacs 1992) (Patnaik 2000)
DKBs critique of messianism foregrounds the importance of democracy for the
project of social transformation which is an argument with general validity.
However in Indian conditions it becomes even more significant due to the
persistence of inherently anti-democratic social practices and conditions such as
caste which are a barrier to the social transformation. Further, democracy is the
terrain on which the political practice- for shaping the consciousness of the
masses- for class-for-itself action- can be possible which is most consistent with
the humanist core of the socialism. We shall see further how the centrality of
democracy to socialist project as an enabling condition as well as an ideal to be
realized is a prominent motif in DKB which opens the possibility of convergence
with Ambedkar.

Originality of DKBs critique of Populism and Messianism lies in locating these

in the traditional cultural outlook from which the communists emerged ( and
could not liberate themselves from it for the lack of a conscious effort to that end)
This opens up a serious issue as to how the ideas of Marxism and communism
were actually received in Indian conditions and vested with the traditional
(religious) beliefs/notions prevalent among the individuals who took up to
Marxism/communism and how this led to the rise of
misconceptions/confusions/distortions about the actual nature of
Marxism/communism itself. Marxism has its roots in the enlightenment tradition
and in Indian conditions where the enlightenment tradition was hardly taking
roots (despite the great efforts of 19th century reformer-thinkers) reception of
Marxism was bound to lead to such distortions. This again points to the logical
primacy of the fullest development and working out of the enlightenment tradition

or the radical liberalism to lay down the necessary conditions for the realization of
the Marxist project. Of course for the ideas of Marxism to have taken root in India
it had to respond to the questions raised by the specific conditions and in so far
had to engage with the intellectual traditions in India. However, situating
Marxism in the enlightenment tradition would necessitate a dialogue with that
stream of Indian intellectual tradition which would respond to the problems posed
by the enlightenment. Greatest effort in this regard was made initially by
Dharmanand Kosambi and at a more advanced level by Dr.Ambedkar in giving a
modern interpretation of the Shramanic-Non-Vedic (essentially Buddhist)
tradition. However, orthodox Marxists in India paid scant attention to the
progressive element of the Shramanic tradition which can be partially explained
by their social origin but more fundamentally due to their inadequate
understanding of humanist ethical content of Marxism which DKB brings to the

Possibility of Peaceful/Non-Violent Social Transformation

DKBs analysis of the role of violence in Marxist conception of social
transformation is a significant feature of his socialist humanism. This analysis is
developed at one level in response to the critique from Sarvodaya-Gandhism and
also through a dialogue with shramanic tradition. According to DKB Marxist
conception of revolution is not to be restricted to mere seizure of power through a
violent coup or putsch but necessarily has to be seen as a process of social
transformation where the entire society has to be involved in that process.
(Bedekar 1968) Cultivation of human values is part of this process for the
attainment of human freedom and fullest development of human capacities. This
is not to be misconstrued as an idealist position where mere transformation of
values would lead to social transformation but it does bring forth the ethical
dimension of the desired transformation which would not be conceivable from a
purely interest based-even if proletarian class interest-conception. Consistent with
his socialist humanism DKB takes an ethical position on the question of violence
and stresses on the possibility of peaceful transition. It is possible because DKB
understands the ethical content of social transformation and therefore the
realization of this ethical conception or vision has to be through collective human
praxis. DKB sees the alienation and unfreedom as a form of social violence and
thus the goal of dis-alienation and freedom is seen as the elimination of the
violence or the human-social relations based on coercion and violence. (Bedekar
1968) Supplementary to the question of violence is the insistence on human co-
operation as a social ethic, as the ethic of competitiveness is based on the
alienating conditions of living and thus closely linked to social violence. It should
also be noted that DKB even as he abjures the cult of violence, does not absolutise
the ideal of non-violence. (Bedekar 1968) For DKB the question of violence is not
of merely political strategic import but it should be posed as whether violence is a
creative force, i.e. whether new society can be created through violence.
Answering this question in negative DKB alludes to the Marxs aphorism of
violence being a midwife and quips that those who believe (critics and followers
alike) the Marxist conception of revolution to be indissociable from violence
perceive the midwife to be mother herself. Possibly Dr.Ambedakar has this
interpretation of Marxist position in his mind (and that indeed was a dominant one
in his times as well as DKBs) when he criticizes Marxists on the question of
violent means in Buddha and Karl Marx. Even though Marx has demonstrated
that the epochal transformations have come through violence he has amply shown
how the forces of the new society were shaped and nurtured within the womb of
the old society itself and hence the creative force is not violence but the collective
human praxis. This issue has bearing on the political praxis of the Marxists,
especially under the conditions of matured democracies. DKB often differentiates
between Social Revolution-Samaj Kranti/Parivartan and Political Revolution
Rajya Kranti and emphasises the lexical priority of the earlier over the later.
Outrage or the feeling of revolt against the existing order can lead to the later but
is inadequate for the completion of the earlier. Its realization necessitates a
fundamental transformation in the conceptions of values and ethical life. This
constant allusion to the ethical nature of the social transformation in DKBs
thought points towards the influence of the 19th century reformist tradition in
Maharashtra and stands contrary to the aversion of the orthodox Marxists ( from

parliamentary to naxalites) of his times to any conception of the ethical necessity
of socialism as against its inevitability. If socialism is not deemed inevitable but
ethically necessary then it brings the question of changing the conceptions and
values to the fore.

Necessity of Cultural Revolution

Consistent with his conception of social transformation DKB argues for the
urgent necessity of the Cultural Revolution in India. Basic issue before him was
that if the values of democracy and socialism are to take roots in India then the
conditions conducive for the reception and development of these values have to
be created. Cultural Development of the masses must necessarily go together with
the process of social-political-economic transformation. In an essay titled Aaj
Sanskrutik Kranti Havi ( We Need a Cultural Revolution Today), DKB argues
that the Cultural Revolution should be a two pronged one- with an element of
rejection and a constructive element. It has to entail a rejection of the divisive
forces (of language, race, caste, religion, nationality, wealth) plaguing human
civilization. (Bedekar 1971) Breaking these barriers to realize egalitarian and
cooperative values is an essential element of Cultural Revolution. Along with this
it also has to chart out a constructive vision as to an outline of how the human life,
forms of association are to be organized, cultural ethical conceptions are to be
fashioned. (Bedekar 1971) Merely breaking the existing divisions or barriers is
not enough and the human life must be given a sense of meaning and purpose
without which realization of human values wouldnt be possible. (Bedekar 1971)
In arguing for the rejection of divisive forces DKB is not looking forward to a
cosmopolitan (Esperantist) utopia as he acknowledges the value of the diversity of
human cultural forms and the achievements of human civilization. In this sense
his position is not of an absolute negation (like the adherents of the Philosophy of
Revolt) but of dialectical sublation-negation that does not simply annihilate, but
preserves some part of the original. Explaining the historical context of cultural
revolution in India DKB argues that as the revivalist hostility nurtured during the
freedom struggle towards British therefore western and therefore modern

civilization is at the root of the persistence of divisive forces. In spite of their
theoretical commitment to the values of modern civilization, the efforts of
communists and socialists proved to be inadequate in de-fragmenting Indian
society as they didnt recognize the specificity of this task. DKB points to the
questions of communal strife, caste-discrimination and linguistic chauvinism as
the questions where this failure at de-fragmentation becomes most starkly visible,
and indeed the general approach of the communists/socialists to these questions
had been mechanical and marred by economism. Orthodox Marxist understanding
of origins of Fascism has remained restricted to the crisis of capitalism-which is
true indeed but a successful anti-fascist struggle requires that one must recognise
to the specific forms that fascism would take- such as the brahminical hindutva
fascism of RSS variety-in the specific historical-cultural conditions. (Kasbe 1980)
(Ahmad 1993) Therefore the vision of Cultural Revolution for DKB is not a mere
utopia (or even a strictly post-revolutionary task) but an objective necessity.
However DKBs formulations on the agency of this Cultural Revolution are at
best hazy even though he argues that the youth from the most oppressed and
exploited sections of the society are best suited for this work. (In a way he is
anticipating the rise of Dalit Panther which again couldnt really arrive at a clear
programmatic understanding of its role and subsequently frittered away). In
absence of any analysis of political economy of the cultural revolution (i.e. an
analysis which factors in the class relations, character and role of the state and
regime of accumulation in delimiting the possibilities in the realm of culture)
there is a danger of this position being reduced to a vague anti-establishment
position, despite the necessity of the task in itself.

This limitation can be explained with reference to the immediate political-

intellectual milieu one can understand DKBs singular insistence on cultural
revolution (or the questions of the transformation of superstructure)- and absence
of political-economic analysis ( questions of the transformation at the base) with
similar urgency. In the political milieu in which DKB was intervening there were
no conscious efforts to this end by forces committed to thoroughgoing
transformation. Reacting to the crude reductionism of the orthodox Marxists

during his times sometimes DKB goes to the other extreme of dealing with the
questions of superstructure as autonomous one. However this could have been the
case for the developments in Marxist theory which posited a more nuanced
understanding of base-superstructure (Gramsci, western Marxism, new left etc. or
even creative thinking within soviet Marxists) were not available to him.
Nevertheless, very fact that he is preoccupied with the similar concerns (albeit in
a crude and at times simplistic manner) his thought can be developed on the
similar lines. As one would see there is nothing unique or exceptional in DKBs
thinking on these questions in so far as such questions were being raised within
and outside Marxist circles during 60s. But this was certainly not the case in India
as the humanist aspect of Marxism was hardly discussed during Marxist circles
and started being discussed only on the fringes of the communist/socialist
movement within the youth groups and collectives. In an ironic way the limitation
of Orthodox Marxism in India becomes DKBs limitation but DKBs contribution
lies in making a step forward by pinpointing this limitation. In this sense his was
not a solution but nevertheless a true setting of the problem.

Democracy as a Socialist Project

DKBs uniqueness (however here he has notable fellow-travellers within the
Communist Party such as P.C.Joshi) in relation to the Official Marxists of his
times is also in his understanding of Indian Democracy. DKB clearly argues that
the future of the communist movement in India is intertwined with the future of
democracy in India. He considered the possibility of the deepening of democracy
creating a dynamic leading to socialism and hence it is incumbent upon the
communists to commit themselves to the democratic project and engage with the
non-communist democratic forces in order to make it a substantive one. (Bedekar
1968) Even though the communists in India adopted to the parliamentary
democratic path (with the exception of insurrectionary ultra-left groups, whom
DKB considers to be complimentary to the right-wing of the congress party), their
commitment to democracy as a socialist project was not explicitly stated till
recently. DKBs commitment to democratic process flows from his understanding
of Marxism itself which has democratic values at its core. However it also stems
from his emphasis on the cultural factors which enabled him to grasp the
specificity of the fascism which could potentially emerge in India, if the
democracy fails to take root in substantive sense. DKB seems to have recognized
how the fertile ground for fascism exists in Indian conditions where traditional
values and beliefs are deeply undemocratic and therefore struggle against fascism
would necessitate forging a new cultural common sense. (Bedekar 1968) It would
be harsh to say that the communist parties were entirely oblivious to the specific
character of fascism in India however their belief in the working class as a
bulwark against fascism led to their (near fatal) neglect of the terrain of the
culture and building the consciousness of the working class. DKB is not
convinced with the argument for the spontaneity of the workers and especially in
Indian context could see the threat of the spontaneity leading to the tendencies of
casteism, linguistic chauvinism, religious bigotry etc. It is here that he sees the
role for communist parties to bring the modern-progressive consciousness to the
masses through cultural-ideological activity. Working class as a class-for-itself
can not emerge either as a revolutionary agent or the bulwark against fascism in
isolation from cultural transformation.

Political Praxis and Transformation of Human Life

Vision of political practice that emerges from DKBs writings is linked to his
understanding of Marxism/socialism and his vision of social-ethical life of
humans. Basically as we have seen in our discussion of DKBs perception of
Marxism that his vision of social transformation is an expansive vision of
transforming human life in its entirety and not restricted to mere political and
economic transformation. It is a position consistent with Marxist vision of
communism as advanced stage in human civilization or the beginning of
genuinely human history by transcending the pre-history of alienated progress.
This vision can only be realized through human collective praxis which is at once
oriented toward struggle and transformation and the agency for the organization
of this activity in the conditions of modern democracy is a political party- in this
case communist or socialist party/parties. From the preceding discussion of
DKBs critique of socialist/communist practice in India an effort to expand the
ambit of transformative political practice can be traced. Even though DKB did not
articulate it specifically we can extract certain key elements of this expanded
vision of political practice from his arguments and later see their relation to the
creative Marxist thinking on these questions.

With the initial premise of whole man or totality of human life the field of
activity for transformative practice is widened to include the aspects of human life
which are strictly outside the ambit of political practice construed in terms of
state. In societies where the process of secularization is incomplete but the
separation between liberal state and religion is achieved such a conception
assumes particular salience. Under such conditions the extent of the state
intervention in the social-cultural-private spheres of human life is restricted and
generally these spheres are predominated by religious conceptions. (This is the
realm of human life where ethical conceptions and human values emerge and are
cultivated and with the predominance of the religious conceptions these are also
shaped by it.) It is so because the liberal state which is by definition (for it values
plurality) is neutral between the different conceptions of good cannot
privilege/promote a particular conception of good in human life. (Eagleton 1994)
With the predominance of religious conceptions the conception(s) of good which
prevail in the social-cultural life of humans are inconsistent with the conception of
good at the core of a progressive-humanist vision of human life. Furthermore such
conception(s) of good can be antithetical to the liberal state itself so by remaining
neutral between the conceptions of good the liberal state keeps alive the threat of
its own undermining. (Eagleton 1994) ( We have observed before how DKB
considers the deepening of Liberal Democracy as a precondition for the
realization of socialist transformation and shall analyze in detail with reference to
Dr.Ambedkar and Dharmanand Kosambis contributions.) Therefore what is
warranted is a departure from the principal of neutrality and promotion of a
particular values and conceptions of good-i.e. an interventionist state or a
collective process wherein the conceptions of good for human life are commonly
fashioned. (Eagleton 1994) This process can take the form of a social reform
movement autonomous of the political parties or the political parties themselves

constitute themselves as a social reform movement- DKBs expectations from the
socialist/communist parties are on these lines even as he does not deny the
necessity of an autonomous movement as well. Initial premise of the whole man/
totality of human life is crucial in this regard because it foregrounds the goal of
all-round development of humans which includes cultural, ethical spheres and the
everyday practices. It is premised on the position that humans have to learn and
master the art of living a meaningful life and this can be learnt only through
collective practice of humans. (Bedkar 2008) What emerges from DKBs
emphasis on cultural revolution (however much hazy it might have been) or the
importance that he gives to the task of shaping the consciousness of masses is the
need to address the aspects of human life which have remained outside the ambit
of the (liberal-democratic) state in general and transformative political practice in
particular. If these aspects remain unaddressed the totality of human life cannot be
transformed and the contradictions would emerge between different spheres of
human life and activity that would put brakes on human progress. This emphasis
on the totality of human life is a legacy of the pioneers of 19th century humanism-
Phule,Ranade,Agarkar who engaged and sought to transform ( or inspired the
transformation of) every aspect of human life, from the rituals in marriage to
dressing habits and from creative literature to methods of education. One of the
major discontents of DKB with the prevailing transformative political practice
was the absence of this sense of totality which cedes space for the religious and
other reactionary ideologies thereby hindering the process of progressive
transformation. (Kamat 1974)

Premise of the Totality of Human Life and the need to collectively fashion the
conceptions of good is related to another recurrent motif in DKBs writings
namely laying down the conditions for the realization of transformative project.
This emerges from DKBs emphasis on democracy and critique of messianism.
This position accords centrality to human agency in the process of transformation
which requires forging a subject with advanced level of consciousness. Masses
acquire consciousness of their conditions at the level of ideology and hence the
struggle at the level of ideology is indispensable to the transformative politics.

Collective practice to transform the totality of human life includes the struggle at
the level of ideology since it entails a process of cultivating values and
conceptions of social-ethical life consistent with the transformative politics. Here
one can see the link between DKBs conception of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha as
a humanist foundation for human life and activity and his vision of political
practice. We have seen how this foundational understanding is essential for the
cultivation of values and ethical conceptions and thereby shapes the subjective
consciousness of the human agent, without which practice wouldnt be possible.
Furthermore, if the enabling conditions for social transformation can be laid down
by deepening of substantive democracy then the values consistent with democracy
and the value of democracy itself has to be cultivated among the masses, thereby
making democratic values as a part of their consciousness. (Lukacs 1992) If this
task is to be achieved then it is necessary to bring the necessary transformation in
the social-cultural standards, norms of everyday life, otherwise the reception of
democracy will remain distorted and in turn keep the possibility of subverting the
democratic process alive. It would be so because the consciousness of the human
agent would remain fractured in absence of a coherent conception of social-
ethical life and values-which can be conceived only with a vision of the totality of
human life. This means that DKBs arguments pertaining to transformative
political practice on one hand suggest the direction this practice should take and
on the other hand specifies what should be the character of this practice itself.
These two elements are organically linked if conceived as the components of the
process of what is called preparation of revolution or building hegemony in
Marxist literature. Thus we should now briefly discuss these antecedents of
DKBs vision as would help us to systematize DKBs scattered writings and grasp
their ideological foundations. Furthermore emerging from these foundations we
can analyze its specificity in Indian conditions and explore the possibility of
convergence with other progressive-transformative strands of thought that
emerged in India in contemporary times.

Antecedents of D.K.Bedekars thought in Gramscian Marxism

If DKBs thought is seen to be emerging from the felt necessity of laying down
the conditions for transformation or in preparing for revolution then its affinity to
Antonio Gramscis thought can be observed. Implicitly DKB is posing the
question of the tasks before the transformative forces in potentially non-
revolutionary or even reactionary times. Therefore it is worth exploring its
connections with Gramscis thought that developed in the conditions of a
weakened state of transformative forces and ascendancy of reactionary i.e. fascist
forces. In Gramscis thought we can see the organic unity of the political-strategic
thought and the ideological essence of this strategy woven around the concept of
Hegemony which can help us better understand the linkages between DKBs
vision of social transformation and his vision of social-ethical life emerging from
his critique of religion.

Gramscis Marxism is recognized as the one where the necessity of cultural

transformation and the specificity of struggle at the level of ideology is posited. It
emerges from his non-reductionist/non-economistic reading of the preface
wherein the operative part for him is that the humans acquire consciousness of the
class struggle at the level of ideology. (Forgacs 2014) Since the centrality of
human agency which is one of the hallmarks of humanist understanding of
Marxism is present in Gramsci, this reading of preface leads him to lay down the
criticism of the prevalent consciousness, spread of ideas and diffusion of culture
as the prerequisites for the revolutionary transformation. (Forgacs 2014) This
constitutes the kernel of his conception of hegemony and the site of struggle for
building the hegemony is civil society. We can see how this fundamental insight
is implicitly present in DKB as he acknowledges the continuity between socialist
project in India and 19th century social reformist thought and locates the
inadequacies of the earlier in the incomplete/aborted character of the later project.
This insight takes a practical-political form in his critique of actual practice of
socialist/communists but DKB does not develop theoretically, which could
contribute to develop socialist humanism appropriate for Indian conditions.
Gramscis conception of war of position which can be seen as the practical-
strategic form of building the hegemony is instructive in this regard as it unites

the necessity of cultural transformation with a vision of political practice under
the potentially non-revolutionary conditions/ relatively weaker state of
transformative forces. Military terminology of War of Position or trench/siege
warfare is mapped onto political scene by Gramsci as a long-drawn political
struggle under the conditions where frontal attack on the state to capture political
power is inadequate because of the cultural-ideological protective mechanisms
built around it in civil society. (Gramsci 1996) These mechanisms effectively
resist the social transformation and therefore for the lasting success of the social
transformation the site of the struggle has to shift to civil society where the
struggle for transforming the popular consciousness and ideology can be
launched. War of position therefore is the process whereby the new consciousness
necessary for the transformative practice is to be forged and the prevalent
ideological-moral foundations of the society are to be weakened and eventually
transformed. Necessity of the war of position is premised upon the position that
the progressive-transformative forces must establish their hegemony-i.e. achieve
consent for it among the people- before the capture of political power. Centrality
of War of Position in Gramscis thought emerges from the conditions in advanced
capitalist countries in the west where liberal democratic institutions had taken root
and thus a lightening strike in a Bolshevik fashion would be rendered
ineffective. (Hobsbawm 2011) However this connection has a more generalized
import if democracy is seen as a component of socialist transformation and war of
position becomes a practical form of a socialist transformation on democratic
lines. Since it is construed as a process of transforming popular consciousness and
winning over the consent of the people it can become a means for embedding
democracy in the socialist project itself. It resolves the contradiction between
reform( piece-meal changes in the existing conditions) and revolution(
thoroughgoing transformation of the existing conditions) by positing reform of the
society as a precondition for revolutionary change and opens up a possibility of a
dialogue between Liberalism and Socialism which in Indian conditions can be a
productive engagement between Ambedkar and Socialist/Communists to deepen
the enlightenment project. Under the rubric of war of position and hegemony we

can see the connection between DKBs emphasis on substantive democracy (as
the site and process of social transformation) on one hand and necessity to evolve
a humanist conception of social-ethical life on the other. To grasp this connection
we should see the substantive content of Gramscis conception of Hegemony so
as to understand its ethical-ideological moorings.

As we have seen before establishing hegemony presupposes a process of cultural

transformation and Gramscis understanding of culture is expansive. Gramsci
understands culture as the organization, discipline of one's inner self, a coming
to terms with one's own personality and attainment of higher awareness.
(Gramsci 2012) This is a subject oriented view where culture and consciousness
are entwined and the process of acquiring consciousness (of own conditions is a
cultural process. Construed in this manner the cultural transformation then
becomes the process of forging a new consciousness and a new subjectivity.
Establishing hegemony for Gramsci is inseparable from acquisition of a critical
outlook and coherent and systematic thought. Question of forging consciousness
is related to the conception of life and here again we can see a similarity with the
centrality of shraddha as foundational understanding in DKBs thought.
Traditional or religious conception of life is disjointed and episodic whereby
attainment of consciousness of ones conditions is not possible since it contains
the fragments of different levels of consciousness. (Forgacs 2014) (E.g.
persistence of fatalistic conceptions-superstitions persisting along with the
instrumental reason). Developing a critical outlook towards ones own
conceptions is therefore necessary to evolve a coherent conception of life. The
critical process is the process of attaining a higher or developed understanding of
ones own personality and social situation whereby a conception of life as a
coherent unity can evolve since it is development along the lines of the human
progress in knowledge as well as forms of human association, i.e. scientific as
well as moral progress. In absence of this development, the conception of life is
shaped by outmoded or superseded ways of thinking which produces an
anachronism and since the conception of life should respond to the actual-
immediate conditions this anachronism holds back from an adequate response.

This fragmented consciousness has two aspects, one which is acquired through
activity oriented towards transformation of reality (human praxis) and verbal
conceptions which are acquired passively from the past. This contradiction
induces passivity or precludes activity since the verbal conceptions shapes the
social outlook of humans which is cut-off from the actual human life-activity.
(We have analyzed this phenomenon while discussing DKBs insistence on
human actuality and necessity of the ethical conceptions to emerge therein.
Practice-oriented character of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is therefore consistent
with the vision of socialist transformation through human agency) Therefore the
coherent conception of life is necessary as a condition of conscious and purposive
human practice. However this is a dialectical process since the coherence is to be
achieved through a critical process which is nothing but a form of human practice
and the essence of the transformative politics. In this regard Gramsci emphasizes
the didactic role of the party and expects it to be organized in a manner as to
develop this critical outlook, which again resonates with DKBs critique of a
messianic vision of communist party and instead looks at the party as a social-
pedagogue. (Hobsbawm 2011) This position is consistent with Leninist
vanguardism insofar as it does not privilege the spontaneity of masses but instead
puts forth the need to subject the spontaneous conceptions to a critique to
renovate and develop them towards a higher conception of life. However this is
not to be conceived as a mechanical imposition or a process akin to pouring a
substance in an empty container. While emphasizing the break this understanding
also accounts for the continuity and therefore seeks to evolve a higher conception
of life by engaging with the rational kernel in the prevalent conception of life and
developing it. (This approach is visible in DKBs treatment of progressive
traditions in Maharashtra and in his development of 19th century humanism along
socialist humanist lines. The aspect of break between religious faith and Dharma
Paryayi shraddha is obvious but the transition of the earlier to the later is a
process which will evolve through stages wherein the progressive-democratic
elements within the earlier have to be used and reformed if this process is not to
be esoteric and a genuinely democratic one-and it can only be that way-in the

sense of taking root in masses.) Gramscis conception of Common Sense and
Good Sense is instructive in this regard. According to Gramsci the Common
Sense is what the prevalent or commonly shared conception of life and as we have
seen before Gramsci does not romanticize this common sense (in a populist
manner) but brings forth its inadequacies. (Forgacs 2014) Nevertheless, Gramsci
acknowledges the kernel of practical understanding or an element of thought in
this common sense since without it these conceptions wouldnt have come into
being at first place and wouldnt have survived either. This element is the good
sense which needs to be engaged with and renovated leading to a higher
conception of life. Only this way can the common sense of the masses can be
made critical by basing itself on the common sense it self-i.e. by making an
already exisiting activity critical. This is consistent with the conception of
transformation on democratic lines since it is to be achieved through a process
emerging from within the masses. Furthermore this is also demands a constant
contact and engagement between transformative forces and masses or what
Gramsci calls the contact between intellectuals and simple. But this engagement
is not for instrumental purpose of keeping masses united but to achieve the
intellectual development of the masses through an organic relationship between
intellectuals and masses. Through this process the intellectuals understand the
elementary passions of masses and connect it to a higher conception of life thus
dialectically uniting feeling and knowledge. (Forgacs 2014)

Basic thrust of this argument is forging a new active subject since the human
agency is deemed central to a transformative project. This requires evolving a
higher conception of life or a new consciousness whereby the shift from moral-
political passivity to activity is made. Evolution of an active subject from a
passive object is not of instrumental importance but in itself a transformation as
socialism conceived democratically is nothing but the process whereby humans
can become in true sense the makers of history.

These Gramscian insights are implicit in DKBs understanding of the

transformative practice and its foundations. We have seen how this sets him apart

from the Official Marxists/Socialists of his time. How did he arrive at this
creative understanding of Marxism (even as the creative Marxist literature or even
the early writings of Marx were not available to him) can be explained with
reference to his close reading of Lenin (as the motif of preparation for
revolution and tasks of revolutionary party in non-revolutionary times emerges
with Lenin) and its creative application to Indian conditions and the influence of
19th century reformist humanism. However within the scope of our inquiry we can
only point out the connections and draw comparisons (as we have in preceding as
well as this chapter) and cannot delve deeper into the philosophical foundations of
the same. Therefore, instead of focusing on the how question we shall see what
were the political-ideological implications of this creativity in Indian Conditions.
In order to do so we shall see the areas of convergence with the Abrahmani-
Shramanic Tradition with reference to Dr.Ambedkar and Dharmanand Kosambi.
In the beginning of this chapter itself we had postulated the similarities between
DKBs thought and Abrahmani-Shramanic Tradition. In the light of Gramscian
insights we can attempt a review of their shared concerns and understanding.
Emphasis on the preparatory task of social-cultural transformation and evolution
of a conception of life as a component of the transformative project can be
broadly seen as a uniting theme between the two, and also a basis of their critique
of the then communist/socialist orthodoxy. Here we shall briefly review
Ambedkars position of primacy of social-cultural transformation and then
proceed to see its linkage with his vision of social-ethical life which he invokes
(along with Dharmanand Kosambi) in his critique of communists. Having done
this we can then see if DKBs Humanist Socialism can answer this critique and
thereby open up a possibility of convergence.

Ambedkars Critical Dialogue with Communists

The entry point into the analysis of convergence between Ambedkar and Marxists
is in his statement in an article in his journal Bahishkrut Bharat to the effect that
had Lenin been born in India he would have taken up the task of abolition of

caste-system with primacy. (Ambedkar, Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkaranchi
Patrakarita 2005) It may seem that we have picked an obscure statement from
Ambedkars huge corpus of writings but it emerges from the pieces that he had
written in Marathi when he was in constant critical engagement with the
communists of his time. Therefore understanding the full import of this seemingly
obscure statement is crucial to understand the nature of this engagement. This
statement has to be seen at the backdrop of Lenins own statement in 1920 (in
Comintern Congress) that the revolutions are prepared, you cant reap what you
havent sown. (Ahmad 1993) Whether this particular statement-or the line of
argument-was known to Ambedkar or not (probably it was not) he does show an
awareness of the task of preparing for revolution in Marxist framework and takes
the Indian communist to task for ignoring it. We shall see how Ambedkar
develops this argument in his other polemical writings as well as theoretical work
like Annihilation of Caste. Before that we can note another statement from his
Marathi writings where he sees a continuum (in a civilisational sense) between
French Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution and sees the later as an advance
over former. (Ambedkar 2005) Pursuing this further we can dig deeper into his
understanding of the character of revolutionary/transformative project itself.

Ambedkars primary argument is that of the undesirability (and even

unfeasibility) of a socialist revolution in absence of level of consciousness of the
masses for the realization of socialist programme. Prevalence of pre-modern
practices and institutions- most prominently caste and untouchablity- is
antithetical to the principles of communism/socialism and therefore the primary
task of communists/socialists has to be directed towards their eradication.
According to Ambedkar, toiling classes which are the agency of the revolution
havent yet emerged as an active agent as it is not yet in a position to receive the
principles of communism/socialism. (Ambedkar 2005) Therefore the necessity to
create conditions where these principles can be received and such conditions
would be that of individuation and establishment of liberal democracy.
Dr.Ambedkar returns to this theme in his speech at Manmad where he posits that
Capitalism and Brahmanism are the two principal enemies of working classes and

analyses Brahmanism as an ideology based on the graded inequalities and
antithetical to democracy. Opposition to Capitalism cannot be effective in absence
of an opposition to Brahmanism since the system of graded inequalities embedded
in caste hierarchy precludes the emergence of a proletariat as a universal class.
(Khairmode 1990) However this argument is not restricted up to caste as a divison
of labourers being a hindrance to the organization of working class- that would be
a mere instrumental argument. Stronger argument for the opposition to
Brahmanism is based on its incompatibility with the democratic ideal and if the
opposition to capitalism is not united with the opposition to Brahmanism then
even if socialism is achieved it would not be democratic. Entwining the struggle
against Capitalism with struggle against Brahmanism thus entails entwining the
socialist project with democracy. Socialism achieved without the destruction of
Brahmanism can be socialism only if it were to be conceived narrowly in terms of
economic equality but absence of democracy in Indian conditions would mean
perpetuation of prevalent social hierarchies and discrimination which would
eventually undercut the socialist project itself. This argument is presented in a
condensed form in Annihilation of Caste (Henceforth AoC) where Ambedkar
posits the primacy of the social revolution over political and economic revolution
and thereby foregrounds the question of preparation of revolution. In an article
titled as Krantichi Upasana ki Dhyeyache Rakshan (Worshipping the
Revolution or Protecting the Ideals?) Dr.Ambedkar posits the Bolshevik
Revolution as an advance over French Revolution as it expands the ambit of the
principles of liberty and equality to economic sphere. (Ambedkar 2005) Since he
sees a continuum between the French and Bolshevik Revolution woven around
the principles of Liberty and Equality (For Ambedkar both are great steps forward
in the progress of human civilization) it is implicit that Democracy be the
precondition for establishment and sustenance of socialism. This argument
emerges in his polemics during the 2nd world war (During the brief period of
Soviet-German treaty when communists had declared it to be an Inter-Imperialist
War) where he clearly argues that the interests of communists/socialists coincide
with the survival of democracy and defeat of Fascism/Nazism and hence the

communists must throw in their lot for the defence of the very ideals of French
Revolution and Bolshevik Revolution-which were under threat from Fascists-
Nazis-instead of aligning with the interests of a Socialist State (USSR). It is a
different matter that since the 1935 world congress of Comintern, Communists
had adopted a similar position of United Front till 1939, and after the German
Aggression on USSR they did revert back to that position again. However it
should be noted that Dr.Ambedkars argument for United Front was not a mere
tactical one but a deeper ideological one where he sees the basis of the progress of
human civilization in a constructive dialogue between Liberals and Communists.
This dialogue is possible in ideological realm owing to their common origins in
enlightenment thought and Fascism-Nazism as the negation of Enlightenment.
(Hobsbawm 2011) Interestingly Dr.Ambedkar anticipates Khrushchevs position
of Peaceful Coexistence as he argues that reordering or restructuring the human
society on the basis of the principles of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity would require
cooperation between Liberal Democracy and Socialism. (Ambedkar 2005)
Significance of these principles for Indian Conditions and transformation of
Indian Society is a key argument of AoC, which also helps us to grasp the ethical
dimension of Dr.Ambedkars vision of Social Transformation.

Ethical Argument for Social Revolution in Annihilation of Caste

While positing the primacy of Social Revolution at the beginning of AoC,
Ambedkar argues that even if socialism were to be achieved without dealing with
the caste problem-the problem specific to Indian social order- it would have to
deal with it after revolution, if it were not to jeopardize its very existence.
(Ambedkar 2007) When Ambedkar argues that social status along with property
is a source of power and authority in India and hence the ideal of liberty cannot be
achieved with the reform of property relations alone, he is implicitly recognizing
the goal of socialism as Human Freedom and in doing so providing a critique of
economism. Furthermore, as he posits the necessity of (collective) human action
for revolution, the question of what would be the basis for this action is posed.
According to Ambedkar this action would be possible only if it is driven by a
sense of justice whereby the attainment of socialism or revolution would entail an
end of discrimination. (Ambedkar 2007) At this point the linkage between the
necessity of preparation of revolution (social-cultural transformation) and the
ethical dimension of the transformation can be explained clearly. Primacy of the
Social Revolution is not a tactical argument but an ethical argument because
social revolution is conceived as a process where a higher conception of life is
evolved which is at once the basis for transformative practice and also the
foundation for a transformed society and human life.

Ambedkars argument for the primacy of Social Revolution can be construed as

an argument for deepening radical liberalism (which is the basis for further social
progress, possibly in the direction of socialism- shorthand for the world without
exploitation and Dukkha) which he inherits-and acknowledges as much- from the
19th century reformist thinkers activists. (Kasbe 2007) For Ambedkar the
necessity for this is borne out of the oppression and degradation of Dalits which
can be removed only by foregrounding the principle of human dignity (equal
moral worth of every individual) implicit in liberalism. However, Ambedkars
argument is not confined to the liberation of a particular section or class but a
universal argument for strengthening the moral stamina of society as a whole and
Social Revolution is conceived as a process of achieving it. Moral Stamina is
strengthened through the acquisition of a coherent and critical conception of life
(in Gramscian sense) and hence in ultimate analysis the social revolution as
construed by Ambedkar is a counter-hegemonic project. It is launched against the
hegemony of Brahmanical world view and ideology which is a reason for the
moral degradation for entire society and hence the struggle for annihilation of
caste (since caste is the pivot of hindu-brahmanical world view) is a struggle for
moral progress of the entire society. In this manner we can grasp the linkages
between Ambedkars arguments against caste in AoC and his reinvention of
Dhamma since the Shramanic Tradition of Dharmanand Kosambi and later
Ambedkar poses the question of moral progress of humans centrally. Ambedkars
argument against caste in AoC is based on a vision of human life and forms of
human association (encapsulated in the slogan of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity) and
he essentially looks at Dhamma as a vehicle for establishing this vision in reality.

Therefore we would briefly review the moral thrust of Ambedkars argument in
AoC and then relate it to his reinvention of Dhamma.

From the argument of AoC we can deduce that Ambedkars project of social
revolution (which is essentially anti-caste) is oriented towards constituting a
cohesive society based on communication between people whereby people share
things (beliefs, practices, ideas) in common. This is not be construed as a
homogenizing vision but de-fragmenting one since the existing fragmentations-
primarily caste- precludes social spirit and produces isolation. This process of
communication among all people is also an essential condition for democracy to
thrive and therefore for the fullest development of the capacities of every human
being. In this position the ideal of fraternity is fore-grounded and Ambedkar says
as much that the fraternity is another name for democracy conceived as form of
associated living. (Ambedkar 2007) Furthermore this associated living is
necessarily of the humans deemed equal and also the very premise of the enabling
conditions for the development of human capacities is based on the
acknowledgement of the principle of equality. If this process of development of
human capacities is a necessarily social process (involving reciprocity) then
according to Ambedkar caste is a hindrance since it prevents a feeling of
mutuality amongst all people and breeds indifference across different castes.
Ambedkar notes the implications of this for the emergence of a public since the
notion of public is confined to the caste. (Ambedkar 2007) Emergence of public
entails a separation of a domain of life and activity from the primordial ties,
identities and communities. This separation is an essential process for
secularization whereby domain of ethics and values emerges as an autonomous
domain where human agency is supreme. Annihilation of caste is necessary for
emergence of this domain which is necessary for democracy if it is conceived in
substantive terms as the process wherein the humans gain control of their life
(becoming active subject). (Here the essential Humanism of Ambedkars position
comes to the fore which can be a common ground with Socialist Humanism.).
Furthermore this is also premised on the process of individuation which
foregrounds the principle of liberty. Seen in this manner it becomes clear how

caste is antithetical to the principles of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity and thus the
primacy of social revolution for ordering society on these lines.

Questions posed to Communists by Modern Interpretation of Dhamma

Thus far we have seen the argument for Liberty-Equality-Fraternity as a

precondition for further human progress and a necessary prerequisite for socialism
to be built in Indian Conditions in particular. But the stronger argument is to see
socialist project itself as an embodiment of these principles. In Buddha and Karl
Marx, Ambedkar uses these principles as a yardstick to asses relative efficacy of
Communism vis-s-vis Buddhism and the thrust of his critique is the absence of
Liberty and Fraternity. (Indeed this critique is applicable to orthodox economism
among Marxists and also to great extent to the then actually existing socialism,
critique of which features prominently in DKBs thought). This argument has
been conceived as a rejection of Socialism by Ambedkar but there is ground to
believe (from his own invocation of the relation between French and Bolshevik
Revolution) that it was an expectation from the communists to be the vehicle of
these principles since Marxism/Communism is as much a product of
enlightenment. Deepening or advancement of the enlightenment project therefore
is not a mere instrumental necessity for creating enabling conditions for
socialism/communism but involves an element of moral progress of society and
individual which Ambedkar finds absent in the then prevalent understanding of
Marxism/Communism. Thrust on moral progress that emerges from Ambedkars
arguments is due to his position that the human life and activity requires a moral
foundation or order and the values and principles are underwritten by it. (Vaidya
2010) (Rodrigues 2004) Ambedkars Dhamma is conceived as this foundation and
thereby it can be (and has been) argued that it is essential to the socialist project
conceived in its ethical dimensions, which is the hallmark of DKBs socialist
humanism as we have seen repeatedly before. Detailed review of the shramanic
tradition exemplified by Ambedkar and Kosambi may not be possible in the scope

of our work but we will point out certain features which explain the nature of their
dialogue and criticisms of communists/socialists emerging from shramanic

In their modern interpretation of the Shramanic tradition which they sought to

make consistent with the enlightenment values Ambedkar and Kosambi envision
Dhamma as a social ethic and not a religion. Ambedkar makes the distinction
between Dhamma and Dharma and Kosambi uses the term Sampradaya-(Sect)
to distinguish other religions from Dhamma to underline its universal character.
(Rodrigues 2004) (Kelkar 1985) Dhamma essentially deals with the problem of
Dukkha which emerges from Trushna and lays down the path for removing
Dukkha, which is the Ashtanga Marga or Eight-fold path. (Vaidya 2010)
Ambedkar and Kosambi point to the social roots of the problem of Dukkha and
thereby pursuit of eight-fold path is conceived as a way of social-ethical life
consistent with the end of social transformation. Eight-fold path basically lays
down the principles of how should humans treat and deal with fellow human
being i.e. inter-subjective behaviour which is the basis of ethics. (Ambedkar
2012) (D. Kosambi 1990) Keeping in mind the distinction that Ambedkar draws
between rules and principles we can say that eight fold path is are not the outside
injunction into human life as set of rules/code/commandments of religions but
instead it is intrinsic to human life. It does not prescribe a predetermined set of
actions but human actions are to be judged on the touchstone of eightfold path. In
this sense the realization of eight fold path in the life and activity of humans is the
ethical content of the social transformation. Explaining the eight-fold path in
terms of Satya-Ahimsa- Aparigraha-Asteya Kosambi shows how it is consistent
with the socialist project and also provides it a moral foundation. (Kosambi 2013)
In this manner shramanic tradition of Ambedkar-Kosambi poses a challenge to
socialists/communists to explicate its ethical vision as in how it conceives the
relations between humans and forms of human association. Ambedkar-Kosambi
deem it necessary to cultivate ethical values and disposition amongst humans for
the sustenance of a society free of dukkha and exploitation. However this process
is not separate from social activity of humans as the social activity of humans is in

itself to be organized in such a way as to cultivate these values. (Kelkar 1985)
Satyagraha is such an organizational form whereby the struggle for the
establishment of the principle of truth and non violence is also partially realized
through the struggle itself. In this sense it is a pedagogic tool. It has been argued
that Ambedkars reinvention of Dhamma is itself a form of Satyagraha and
Kosambi envisions the process of building socialism as a Satyagraha. (Gokhle
1985) In the absence of moral foundations for the transformative project the only
alternative is the recourse to force which can distort the very objective of
transformation since it amounts to the infringement of liberty. We can note the
affinity of this argument with the Gramscian insistence on securing the consent
through raising the level of consciousness of masses which as we have noted
embeds the democratic principle with socialism. In fact Ambedkars critique of
communists In Buddha and Karl Marx that hinges on the use of moral force or
brute force which he uses to establish the superior efficacy of Buddhas path can
also be made a part of the efforts to make socialism consistent with democracy.

Principles of Pradnya (Reason) Karuna (Compassion) and Shil (Character) are

the ethical core of Ambedkars Dhamma. (Ambedkar 2012) In lieu of Karuna and
Shil, Kosambi lays emphasis on Ahimsa which he construes socially- as a
principle of organization of society- and argues for coupling Pradnya with
Ahimsa. (Kosambi 1995) Principles of Karuna and Shil pertain to what Ambedkar
calls Achar Dhamma wherein Shil pertains to the conduct of the human
individual and Karuna as the love for human beings is the principle for the inter-
subjective behaviour of humans. Kosambis principal critique of Communists is
their emphasis on Pradnya at the cost of Ahimsa and he considers Pradnya alone
to be inadequate to achieve human happiness- i.e. removal of Dukkha- as it alone
cannot tell how the human life should be. Pradnya is not adequate to make the
judgment regarding the means as it does not involve the inter-subjective aspect
and since the end of social transformation is in terms of human life the question of
means must have inter-subjective considerations. Karuna as the love for human
beings is necessary for the judgment regarding the means if human beings are
conceived as an end in itself, which is the hallmark of any humanism. In Buddha

or Karl Marx, thrust of Ambedkars criticism of communists is on the question of
means and it can be seen as a humanist critique of violence and dictatorship. This
critique emerges from the Principle of Karuna as violence and dictatorship is
bereft of Karuna in the sense of love for human beings as it amounts to
privileging an abstract ideal over actual human beings. Fallacy of this position
prevalent amongst the communist orthodoxy during Ambedkars times is to
ignore the role of human agency in the realization of the very ideal for which
violence and dictatorship are resorted to. Violence and Dictatorship are thus the
ways to short-circuit the process of transformation through circumventing human
agency and human lives. Principle of Karuna as well the eight fold path at once
contribute to the process of cultivation of humanist values and can encompass
entire humanity within its fold. In this sense it is conducive to democratic vision
of social transformation. Foregrounding the principle of Karuna along with
Pradnya, Ambedkar-Kosambi bring forth the absence of democracy in the then
prevalent communist/socialist thinking and anticipate socialist-humanist
reinterpretation of Marxism which we have seen in DKBs thought as well as its
theoretical antecedents in Gramsci. Furthermore, taking Pradnya, Karuna and
Shil together entails a conception of human life which doesnt reduce it to a
particular form of human activity or capacity but looks at it in its totality. The
then orthodox economistic interpretation of Marxism can be seen as privileging
Pradnya over the rest in so far as it laid emphasis on the instrumental aspects of
human life-particularly the economic- and held a mechanistic conception of
human life.

Argument for a Dialogue between Liberals and

From this very brief account we can see Ambedkar-Kosambis interpretation of
Dhamma to be oriented towards the ideals at the centre of enlightenment project
as it keeps democracy at the core and focuses on the cultivation of values and
dispositions to achieve it. Centrality is accorded to human agency in this process
and the creative-transformative aspect of the human activity is reaffirmed. We

have noted the essential humanism of this position as it treats the humans an end
in itself and embraces the universalism which is secular and not sectarian- a
feature of enlightenment thought encapsulated in the ideal of fraternity. The
critical dialogue with communists from the standpoint of Dhamma is therefore an
effort to underscore the indispensability of strengthening the liberal principles of
enlightenment for communist/socialist project. It is so because these principles
signify a progress in the conceptions of life and forms of human association- the
element of moral progress. Seen in conjunction with the argument for the primacy
of social revolution the import of this position for Indian conditions in particular
can be appreciated since Indian society has not undergone a thoroughgoing
enlightenment in the sense of a democratization and secularization of society.
Therefore the transformative political practice-of which communists/socialists are
a component - need to recognize the primacy of cultivating liberal principles in
Indian society. However Ambedkars argument for liberal principles is a stronger
one which posits the worth of these principles for the progress of human
civilization in general and therefore expects the communists/socialists to embed
these principles in their project if they are to contribute to this progress. Thus the
modern interpretation of Shramanic tradition by Ambedkar and Kosambi is an
attempt no short of building an enlightenment project specific to Indian conditions
that seeks to unite the two progressive strands of enlightenment thought-
Liberalism and Socialism.

We have seen in last chapter while reviewing DKBs understanding of socialism

and also earlier in this chapter while reviewing his vision of transformative
practice that he envisioned Marxism as a successor of enlightenment project and
thus the motifs of human agency, democracy and autonomous conception of
social ethical life appear centrally in his thought. Even though he doesnt
explicitly call for a synthesis of Liberal and Marxist strands (However his Marxist
critics like A.R.Kamat had rightly noted his affinity to liberal principles even
while remaining within Marxist framework-particularly his discontent with all
prevalent ideologies in their present form and the quest for evolving a new
universal enlightenment humanism adequate to the predicament of humans in our

times. (Kamat 1974)) the motive force behind his humanist interpretation of
Marxism against the grain is his engagement with 19th century humanism which
can be seen as the advent of Indian liberalism. The question to be posed is what
makes the variant of Indian Liberalism in 19th century reformist-humanist thought
to be particularly amenable for a constructive dialogue with
Socialism/Communism. Answer to this question would point towards the terra
firma on which the unity of Ambedkar and Socialist Humanism would rest. 19th
century humanist thought and especially Phule brings the Abrahmani-Brahmani
contradiction in Indian philosophical and social-cultural tradition to the centre-
stage. (Patil 2006) (Even though Ranade never quite unequivocally rejected the
authority of Vedas, espousal of Varkari Tradition and particularly Tukaram by
Prarthana Samaj can be seen as a mark of heterodoxy to the Brahmani Tradition.
(More 2000) ) Fundamental social-philosophical difference between these two
poles is the espousal/rejection of the Inequalities and Hierarchies of Varna
System. (Brahmani-Abrahmani contradiction is implicit in the principal
contradiction in Indian philosophy between Vedic schools and
NonVedic/Shramanic schools, as all Vedic schools have upheld the Varna system
and vice versa. (Gokhle 1994)). Therefore the radical strand of Indian Liberalism
posits the primacy of the struggle against Varna System and makes it a yardstick
for the progressive or transformative character of politics. Dr.Ambedkars
Annihilation of Caste and Buddha and His Dhamma can thus be seen as a
continuation of Phules Gulamgiri and Sarvajanik Satya Dharma Pustak
respectively. (Kasbe 2006) Since the question of caste pertains to the social
relations in Indian society, the radical anti-caste liberalism cannot but go beyond
the individual-centric understanding so as to foreground with the question of
thoroughgoing social transformation and thereby opening a dialogue with
Socialists. However to achieve this even socialism has to be conceived as anti-
caste project in Indian conditions. As we have seen earlier, DKBs socialist
humanism which centrally deals with the critique of religion and conceives a non-
religious foundational understanding in the dorm of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha
can possibly address this question especially when caste is entwined with hindu

dharma. We have seen in last chapter that DKB captures the dehumanizing nature
of caste system as he sees it from the perspective of alienation. Even through his
critique of Tilak his opposition to Vedic tradition on ethical grounds takes him
closer to the Phule-Ambedkarite variant of Radical Liberalism. Therefore in
DKBs socialist humanism, principal concerns of Abrahmani tradition
exemplified by Ambedkar find resonance. Therefore, at a social-ideological level
DKBs Socialist Humanism and Phule-Ambedkarite radical liberalism appear to
be having a common ground.

This work is primarily an attempt to begin a review of an intellectual tradition in
Marathi that has remained relatively unknown to the academic universe. Our work
has generally been a work of translation to introduce certain key contributions of
D.K.Bedekar- a prominent thinker in this intellectual tradition. Along with this we
have tried to explore the potentialities in this thought for further development of
progressive-transformative political and intellectual discourse.
We have seen how DKBs assessment of the 19th century reformist humanist
thought in Maharashtra is distinctive as he analyses it as the emergence of the
enlightenment thought in Indian conditions-as an intellectual philosophical
discourse in its own right. He does not see it from a particularistic frame but as a
part of the universal humanist trend. While being attentive to the historical
context and social conditions of the emergence of this thought DKB identifies
themes in this thought which can potentially address the contemporary questions
before human life. Fundamentally DKB perceives this thought to be engaged with
the question of evolving a modern vision for social-ethical life of humans that is
consistent with overall-material as well as moral-progress of society. This project
necessarily emerges through a critique of religion (Dharma Vichar) as the social-
ethical-cultural aspects of life were pervaded by religion. However as we have
seen through DKBs assessment that this thinking on religions was essentially
concerned with earthly matters than heavenly. In DKB analysis of this thought
there is recognition of the incompleteness of the project espoused by the reformist
humanist activist-thinkers in 19th century Maharashtra. However there is also
recognition of its inadequacy which is borne out of its theistic position which
stops short of thoroughgoing humanism. (Theism leaves the scope for
hetereonomy that goes against the principle of human autonomy which is linked

to the achievement of the ideal of human freedom) We have seen how this leads
him to develop this thought further in contemporary conditions on socialist
humanist lines. Basically this entails advancing the critique of religion started by
19th century activist-thinkers in Maharashtra through Marxist critique of religion.

DKBs creativity lies in identifying the humanist underpinnings of Marxist

critique of religion by seeing it in relation with Marxist critique of alienation of
humans. Therefore the project dis-alienation that entails realisation of human
essence and human freedom becomes inseparable from the critique of religion in
DKBs thought. DKBs humanist critique of religion recognises the historical
social function of religion in providing a foundational understanding (Shraddha)
for the continuation of human life and activity. However with the advance in
human knowledge (of nature as well as self-knowledge) a possibility of a non-
religious/non-alienated humanist foundational understanding is made possible
which DKB terms Dharma Paryayi Shraddha. DKBs humanism does not stop
at being merely atheist (which it surely is contrary to certain misconceptions that
we have addressed in the introduction itself) but posits the need for a positive
vision of social-ethical life of humans. Since DKB links the critique of religion
with dis-alienation he can pose the question of social ethical life of humans under
these conditions and Dharma Paryayi Shraddha is a response to this question.
DKBs conception of Dharma Paryayi Shraddha seeks to give a foundation for
the realisation of human values and making social-ethical life of humans a
meaningful one. (i.e. making human relations personal and perfectly intelligible).
This conception is based on and to be realised through human practice and
therefore DKBs vision of social ethical life is also oriented towards actual human
social practice. It is not aprioristic (as religious or other idealist variants of
morality are) but makes the realisation of human values a question of
transforming human practice itself. We have seen how the conception of Dharma
Paryayi Shraddha lays down a vision of humanisation of human practice and
contributes to the critique of prevalent dehumanising conditions.

Underlying this is his recognition of the ethical dimensions of social

transformation and necessity to consciously cultivate human values consistent

with progressive-transformative political practice. We have seen how this has
been a hallmark of his Socialist Humanist understanding which makes him posit
the centrality of human agency and democracy to the socialist project. This
position has the potential to reorient the transformative political practice and
through DKBs writings a critical view of the actual practice of
communists/socialists in the light of the aforementioned vision of transformation
is available to us. DKBs critique of communists/socialists is for their refusal to
see the specificity of the task to forge or develop the consciousness of masses.
Question of consciousness of masses comes to the fore due to the centrality of
human agency in DKBs vision of social transformation and its neglect among the
orthodox communist/socialists due to their mechanical understanding of this
process. DKBs writings pinpoint the populist and messianic tendencies within
communists/socialists which are antithetical to democracy and therefore
contribute to the enfeeblement of masses. Enfeeblement of masses is not
consistent with the humanist principle of autonomy that entails the humans to be
the active agents and not passive objects.DKB also brings out the connection
between these trends and economism that shapes a very restricted vision of
socialism. DKB argues that it is a result of a thin understanding of human life and
does not account for the ethical-cultural aspects of human life. DKB revisits the
conception of Whole Man from Marxs early writings which is a starting
premise as well as an object to be realised. This conception enables DKB to
develop a vision of social-ethical life of humans that emerges from his critique of
religion. This vision is as much to be realised through social transformation as it
is to enable the practice of social transformation. Thus, DKB can be seen to be
operating within the problematic of preparation of revolution or building a
counter-hegemonic project. We have attempted to review the antecedents of
DKBs position in Gramscian Marxism. This parallel is highlighted as Gramsci
underscores the need to evolve a critical conception of life for the establishment
of hegemony. Insistence on cultural transformation through making the common
sense of masses critical resonates with DKBs project of evolving a vision of
social ethical life through critique of religion.

This understanding of social transformation and vision of human life opens up the
possibility of a dialogue between socialist humanism and the modern shramanic
tradition developed by Ambedkar and Dharmanand Kosambi. In positing the
primacy of social revolution (essentially oriented towards the annihilation of
caste) Ambedkar lays down a vision of social-ethical life of humans that is further
developed in his conception of Dhamma. We have noted how Ambedkar views
socialism in continuum with enlightenment tradition which is a parallel with
socialist humanist thought and his (and Kosambis) conception of Dhamma is
primarily an ethical foundation for realisation of enlightenment values in Indian
conditions. DKBs critique of religion has the capacity to address these concerns
of Ambedkar as the emerging vision of social-ethical life from it is consistent
with enlightenment values. This also holds out the possibility of expanding the
frontiers of socialist project through a dialogue with liberalism as ultimately these
two are the children of enlightenment. In Indian conditions where enlightenment
values-liberal values are not fully a part of the consciousness of masses this
dialogue is a practical necessity. It is a hallmark of DKBs creativity that his
thought can effect such a dialogue especially in the times when such an attempt
would have been seen as a deviation. Now with the changed circumstances where
the forces challenging enlightenment values are ascendant in politics as well
academia, revisiting DKBs thought can open new possibilities in intellectual as
well as political domain.


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