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This is a discourse by Kolathur Mani, leader of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam, who spoke on the topic ‘Periyar and Marxism’ on 24th January 2021 in Kuzhiithurai, Kumari district.

Marxist party ‘MCPI(U)’ has given a controversial statement that Marxists in Tamil Nadu did not perceive Periyarism properly. Following this, the party has announced its policies, and it cites that “the party has felt the complete need of Periyar and Ambedkar significantly in the present where caste and religious divisions are strengthening.” This symposium was organized based on this. The discourse of Kolathur Mani is as follows:

kolathur maniPeriyarism is nothing but the four policies of Periyar. Periyar considered the abolition of caste as his foremost policy. Ensuing this, secondly, Periyar focused on feminism which is used as a trump card to the caste system. Thirdly, Periyar adopted the policy of communism.

Periyar started the self-respect movement, abolition of the caste system in 1925, feminism in 1926 and started to speak about communist agendas in 1927. In 1938, he kept the policy of Tamil Nadu at last. Periyar worked throughout his lifetime for these four policies.

People may think that I left out his policy of atheism in this list. The thing is, Periyar chose atheism as an instrument to functionalize and practice all these policies mentioned above. His ultimate aim was not to deny God, but God was used as an impediment to implement the policies, and so criticism of God became the need of the hour.

If we take atheism, I have told in many places that Savarkar, who sowed the poisonous seed of Hindutva politics in our country, was an atheist. We do not need that kind of atheism.

Periyar did not even speak about rational atheist rather, he put forth atheism which can induce a social change. If we listened to his speech, we would have understood this. In one of his speech, Periyar says that,

“If a God did not destroy a country either by earthquake or volcano eruption or by tsunami where there are practices such as Men should not touch other men, should be banished from sight; streets, restricted inside the temples; retrained from fetching water in common water tanks etc., you people decide if God is really present and what do you think if someone says God is, he omnipotent”

This is the question raised by Periyar regarding belief on God. He asked that, will God witness all these atrocities?

He also says in one place, “I cannot postpone this cruelty of untouchability, not even a day so that I can act tomorrow. my heart will not accept this."

“It is god-awful to profess God is omnipotent and unbiased, but still he witnesses untouchability and people who suffer because of untouchability. Maybe it can be said that God would have created untouchability. If this is true, that kind of God should be denied, and if God is not aware of this untouchability, he should be denounced as soon as possible. If he cannot control these people who do injustice, then what is the significance of his presence in this world. Denouncing him would be in just.”

This was spoken by Periyar at the conference that happened in Pachaiyappa hall in Chennai in 1929 regarding the abolition of untouchability.

Periyar put forth in this way, why do we need God? If God cannot be able to abolish untouchability even though he wished to abolish it. So, denouncement of God became significant in his journey towards his ambition as it served as a root for all evil practices.

Marxism and Periyar was the topic given to me. This can be told in three ways. One is Periyar and his Marxist activities, Marxist thoughts and initiatives. Another one is, amiable Marxist perceptions of Periyar.

And Marxism which has restrained from Periyar. I would like to take these three. When we speak about Periyar’s Marxism, we have ‘Kudi Arasu’ as an only record. Periyar started ‘Kudi Arasu’ in May 1925.

We can find all his articles fully only after starting this magazine. It would have come in other magazines too, but it didn’t reach our hands. We didn’t get the opportunity to read those. But we have his Kudi Arasu, and even we have published it at our own risk.

We have published it in 27 editions. It comprises of 13 years of Periyar’s speech and writings from 1925 to 1938. Following this, Dravida Kazhagam has published it till 1949. I would like to share a few pieces of information’s I read from these editions.

Periyar has come out from the congress party at the end of November in 1925. Congress favored and supported caste, and the capitalist system was his opinion. We will talk about this later.

Ramanathapuram district Congress conference was held in Pallathur, Karaikudi. Periyar was the president of this conference as he was the general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Congress party. He has been worked in Congress for nearly six years. He joins Congress in the year 1919.

Before this, he was a supporter of the congress party. He has even been to the Surat conference in 1907 but was not a member of Congress then. He joined as a member of Congress after he visited Jallianwala Bagh and moved by the bullet holes in the walls when he went to the Amritsar conference.

Periyar thought that it’s high time to join Congress and to voice out against imperialism. He misunderstood that Congress was an organization that worked against imperialism and joined in Congress. It took six years to find out that.

Congress committees were divided based upon language when Periyar joined in the year 1919. Though Madras province was big enough for administration, the party’s committee is divided as per language. Divisions like the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, Kerala congress committee, Andhra congress committee was divided then themselves.

Periyar was the president of the Tamil Nadu Congress committee then. Periyar served as a general secretary even though in the absence of the president. Periyar came out of the Congress party when he was serving as general secretary. He tells about Congress at the Karaikudi conference as he decides to quit the party in few months.

“World belongs to the working-class, and so Congress should also belong to the working class. But Congress has been in integration with rich and English-speaking people. Swaraj advocated by Mahathma should have been for working-class and not for affluent and learned English men.”

He expresses his grief that Congress was an elite party and not a worker’s party.

It was the party of wealthy and learned men. There were no labors in the party. It serves as the party which excludes the working class. This is spoken in the party’s conference by the general secretary of the party, so this would be seen as an act against the party by the ruling people.

Following this, Periyar speaks in the time of legislative election. The election will happen, and nominations are there, and it was called as MLC then. Nominations are nothing but the constituency of labors and the constituency of learned men.

Periyar questioned that if the leaders of the political party have true affection over labors, why don’t they opt for any of the labors as their candidate for legislative elections, at least in constituencies like Chennai, Nagai and Kovai.

Periyar put forth a question that you named it as labors constituency, and you choose a candidate as per your own will, mostly elite affluent people. Why labors are they not chosen as candidates that too for their constituency? Candidates are ought to reflect the voice of labors. Like this, we can add many stories.

(to be continued)

- Kolathur Mani, the leader of Dravidar Viduthalai Kazhagam

Translated by Maruvarthini P.

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