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Marxism and Minority Rights (Dr. M. Mohibul Haque)

The presence of diversities and minorities almost in all societies of the world is an empirically established fact. At the same time, the persecution and exploitation of the non-dominant minorities has also been a universal phenomenon during all periods of human history. There is an intrinsic relation between gross violation of human rights across the globe and persecution of minorities. Despite this fact the theories and practices of human rights had not addressed the problems of minorities within the paradigm of human rights until recently. It is only in the twentieth century that rights of minorities started getting some attention. However, the two main mega-narratives of political theory namely, Liberalism and Marxism have not been able to address the problems of rights and claims of minorities within their own ideological paradigms.

In fact, Liberalism based on individualism and laissez faire and Marxism based on class perspective were not designed to address and accommodate the diverse claims of minorities. It is of late that contemporary liberalism has made attempts to strike a balance between individual and collective rights of the groups and the concepts like multiculturalism and pluralism are being advanced. It is satisfying to observe that liberal democratic states have realized this fact that mere non-discrimination provisions in the procedural republic is not enough to ensure that minorities will not face marginalization and deprivation. The slogans like ‘inclusive democracy’ and ‘consociational state’ are often heard now. Nevertheless, it has yet to resolve the dilemma of ensuring that its sacrosanct individual's rights are not denied while ensuring collective rights.

Marxism on the other hand, believes in class character of the society. For the Marxists, the concepts like minority and majority are mere smart illusions developed by the ruling class and only two antagonistic classes in the society, namely, haves and have-nots are reality. The Marxists emphasize on bulldozing all identities except classes in the beginning and then to establish a classless and stateless society. The Marxist state at the stage of socialism has to create conditions for its own withering away by resolving class contradictions through the destruction of the remnants of the bourgeoisie. Religion is opium of the masses and therefore, religious minorities will find it difficult to claim any special right in a socialist state. This is also clear from the gross repression of the religious groups in the socialist states including the Soviet Union. Thus, it is quite explicitly exposed that minorities will not enjoy any special consideration in the Marxist paradigm. In fact, the Marxists consider communism as the panacea for all and therefore, they believe that in the Marxist scheme there will not be a problem of minority and majority. However, after lifting of the iron curtains from the socialist states in the backdrop of disintegration of the Soviet Union and other socialist sates of Eurasia, it has been found that there were serious crisis of human rights including the minority rights in those states.

It is imperative upon the Marxist ideologue today to attempt at exploring and finding space for minority rights within Marxist paradigm in the changing scenario. It is also important to understand the changing face of politics in India and at international level and to find space for minority rights in Marxism. However, it is necessary to mention here that the purpose of the article is not to advance a Marxist theory of minority rights rather it is to emphasize the need for such a theory.

Marx is dead long live Marxism. Demise of Soviet Union and collapse of Communism is a great loss to mankind. It must be revived to resist the imperialist onslaught and exploitation. For this purpose, a fresh look at communism is needed to make it up-to-date. Ideological orthodoxy and fundamentalism is as bad as religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism. Changing nature of classes and class struggle should be understood and marginalized communities and groups must be brought for discussion in the context of have-nots. The socialist states like liberal democratic states have been found to deliberately ignore the question of identity based on culture and religion. It is important to notice that the question of identity has become a very important issue in the post-Cold War era and therefore it needs to be addressed by the vibrant ideologies.

Changing nature of state in the post globalization phase is to be understood in its relations with its marginalized groups and communities. The capitalist paradigm of successive exploitation and usurpation of natural rights of people is applicable to relative deprivation of Dalits, Minorities and Adivasis in India. The Executive of Indian state is behaving as ‘a committee for managing the affairs of the whole bourgeois'.

The state is quite cleverly withdrawing its services in the name of cuts in public expenditure and providing space for privatization. Thus, non-dominant minorities and other vulnerable groups are exposed to exploitation. The nature of exploitation and vulnerability of minorities in the post globalization phase can be understood and exposed only if globalization and capitalism is understood with Marxian approach.

The debacles in assembly elections in West Bengal and Kerala call for introspection in Marxism in India. The realization by the top brass in the CPI (M) that caste is a social reality in India is a welcome sign. However, the consistent denial of existence of exploited and suppressed religious minorities is unfortunate. In fact in the post globalization phase, the minorities and other marginalized groups are more vulnerable and the left movements in the country cannot afford to ignore this fact.

It is evident from the Constituent Assembly debates, the First and other Amendments of the Constitution and subsequent legislative measures, and the judicial interpretations of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws in the country that ‘classes' or ‘class of citizens' include caste and religious communities both. The Communist movements in India should take cognizance of these developments to include minorities in their interpretation of class paradigm of politics. Karl Marx had already hinted and guided in this direction in Asiatic Mode of Production. This is high time to ponder over to develop a Marxist theory of Minority Rights otherwise it will be too late for the Communists to regroup and reorganize themselves and resurface on political map in the country and the world.

*Author is Assistant Professor in Department in Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. He teaches Politics and Human Rights.
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