Can a theology rest on the hand movements of a chimpanzee?
Not only did a theology that mercilessly ruled almost half the world population for more than fifty years rest on the way the hands of a chimpanzee move, but it also effectively inhibited the way we understand human evolution and human nature for more than a century.
It all started with Friedrich Engels. In his 1876 written essay ‘The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man‘, the founding father of Marxist dialectics declared how labour had shaped and fine-tuned human hand. This according to him made our branch of apes uniquely human.
Soon this became central to Marxist theology. One can note that the evolution envisioned here is based on the notion of the inheritance of acquired characters. This mechanism first proposed by French Zoologist Lamarck had been a favored and dominant view of evolution. It is also a mechanism that is favoured by racists and adherents to birth based caste system. For example in India, a very venerable Sankaracharya of recent times had claimed that the Brahmin voices have become naturally tuned to Vedic chanting through generations of recitations!
In other words, according to the theory of Lamarck, the environment in which one lives directly has an impact on the genes you pass on to the next generation. This notion of inheritance is called Lamarckian and it is easy to see why this may still appeal to people who favor caste and race.
Engels himself believed in racial superiority or rather the evolutionary advancement of European race over the others and hence his embracing of Lamarckian mechanism is not exactly a puzzle.
To be fair to Engels, he could only use Lamarckian framework to explain ‘labour’ and ‘hands’. The alternative and the correct view of inheritance, the Mendelian, though published by the Austrian abbot in 1865 went unnoticed even by the scientific community. It would have to wait until the 20th century to get synthesized with Darwinian evolution to become what we call today ‘Neo-Darwinism’.
It was only in 1892, more than a decade after Engels wrote his tract, that German biologist August Weismann had completely ruled out the possibility of Lamarckian mechanism when he distinguished between the somatic cells that face the influence of the environment in which the organism lives and the germ cells that actually transmit the genetic information to the next generation.
So, if in his times Engels were to establish that labour was the actual factor that ‘produced’ the hand, the inheritance had to be Lamarckian.
Thus over the course of years Engels’ flawed view became the dominant one in Marxist anthropology. In Indian Left circles this was treated like a revealed truth. For every organ considered uniquely human, Engels provided similar evolutionary explanation within the Lamarckian framework. Thus, he explained, the organ of speech –as the language is uniquely human- also developed because of social conditions creating the need and the organ becoming more and more perfect over the generations. In the same essay Engels would point out:
Necessity created the organ; the undeveloped larynx of the ape was slowly but surely transformed by modulation to produce constantly more developed modulation, and the organs of the mouth gradually learned to pronounce one articulate sound after another. (Engels, 1876:1895)
‘First labour, after it and then with it speech’ Engels had pronounced.
In Soviet anthropology these were revealed truths, basic axioms that could not be questioned. Even in certain quarters of the Western anthropological circles, the idea that human uniqueness comes from tool making gained credence. Socialist author Daniel Gaido in his 1970 article wrote:
The central source of this uniqueness has been pinpointed by the Marxists. It is the capacity of humans to engage in labor activities and produce the necessities of life. No animal species does that. This “labor theory” of human origins was first set forth by Engels in his essay “The Part Played by Labor in the Transition from Ape to Man.” Today such leading authorities in archaeology and anthropology as Sherwood Washburn, William Howells, Kenneth Oakley, V. Gordon Childe, and others use tool-making as the criterion that distinguishes humans from animals. (Daniel Gaido, Is Biology Woman’s Destiny?, International Socialist Review, December 1971, Vol. 32, No. 11, pp. 7-11, 35-39;)
Yet there were two fundamental problems in this scenario. One is that tool making has been found to be not at all limited to human species. As anthropologist Paul Bohannan pointed out, ‘before Jane Goodall discovered chimpanzees making tools, culture was usually said to be the prerogative of human beings. But now either we had to stop defining culture by mere tool use or else we had to extend the idea of culture.’ (‘How Culture Works?’, 1995, p.9)
Marxist response to this discovery of Chimp tool making has been an extraordinary exercise in negation. As late as 2004 in the introduction to a reprint of Engels’s ‘The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State‘, Pat Brewer, a prominent Marxist author not only dismissed the evidence of widespread Chimpanzee tool making as ‘sporadic and a sideline in gaining sustenance’ but emphasized that ‘tool-making and tool use by humans’ as a ‘species-specific’. (Resistance Books, 2004, p.13)
Again, the Marxist response to the scientific dismissal of Lamarckian theory has occupied the broad spectrum of inventing officially sanctioned neo-Lamarckian pseudo-sciences (courtesy Lysenko) to cling on to the lines of Engels like they are unalterable gospel truth. Thus, Pat Brewer claims in his 2004 introduction that the increased ability in tool use and tool making led ‘to further changes in the structure of the hand’ and thus asserts the declaration of Engels that hand ‘not only became the “organ of labour” but also the “product of labour”.
Evolutionists sympathetic to the Marxist worldview, like Stephen Jay Gould, had considered the reasoning and synthesis of Engels as brilliant insight despite its cardinal Lamarckian deficiency. Jay Gould even goes to the extent of saying that Engels explanation was so far ‘the best 19th century case for gene-culture co-evolution’. Though Engels did make a brilliant correlation, he was wrong both in terms of direction (‘first labour’) as well as the process (Lamarckian).
Here is anthropologist Tim Ingold explaining the fallacy and the damage it has done to the understanding of human evolution:
The trouble with such statements lie in their fostering of the impression that tool use and manufacture generate anatomical modification in just the same way that brain and hand combine in generation of tools. Nothing could be further from the truth. (The Appropriation of Nature: Essays on Human Ecology and Social Relations, University of Iowa Press, 1987, pp.64-5 : emphasis not in the original)
In any case modern research shows that the hand does have a significant role in the manifestation of speech. More than the tool making, it is the social cognitive developments in human species which have been associated with the hands. The discovery comes from an unexpected quarters.
Roger Fouts, a psychologist, who explored human-chimp communication for decades, discovered that ‘they can use abstract symbols and metaphors, have a mental grasp of classifications and understand simple grammar. They are also able to use syntax, i.e. to combine symbols in an order that conveys meaning, and they creatively combine signs in new ways to invent new words.’ (Capra, Hidden Connections, 2002, p.58).
The discovery led him to a work by an anthropologist in 1970s which was given scant attention: Gordon Hewes had proposed that the origin of human language might have its roots in more and more sophisticated hand movements – gestures. So the problem for Fouts was to find out the process by which human speech evolved out of hand gestures. This problem was later solved by the work of a neurologist Doreen Kimura. She discovered that both human speech and hand movements were probably rooted in the same motor region of the brain. Physicist turned deep-ecologist and author Fritjof Capra explains:
The realization enabled Fouts to formulate his basic theory of the evolutionary origin of spoken language. Our hominid ancestors must have communicated with their hands, just as their ape cousins did. Once they began to walk upright, their hands were free to develop more elaborate and refined gestures.
Over time, their gestural grammar would have become more and more complex, as the gestures themselves evolved from gross to more precise movements. Eventually, the precise movements of their hands would have triggered precise movements of their tongues, and thus the evolution of gesture produced two important dividends: the ability to make and use more complex tools, and the ability to produce sophisticated vocal sounds. (Capra, 2002, p.59)
Engels had stated ‘First labour, after it and then with it speech’. Now we have to reverse the statement and may have to say ‘First gestures, after it and then with it speech’.
And by the way, a team of scientists from George Washington University have discovered that chimpanzees have more ‘evolved’ hands than ours. (Journal reference: Sergio Almécija et al, The evolution of human and ape hand proportions, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 7717, 14-July-2015).
The human and chimp branches had split from the last common ancestor (LCA) almost 7 million years ago. Studies have shown that human hands, in some crucial aspects, resemble the hands of our last common ancestor more than the hands of the chimpanzees! Wonder if the Left would attribute ‘labour’ as the reason for this too!
In recent years, I have given a number of presentations to high-school and college students on the importance of economic freedom and persistent threat of socialism – as witnessed, for example, by the recent economic meltdown in Venezuela. One problem that I have encountered is that young people today do not have a personal memory of the Cold War, let alone an understanding of social and economic arrangements in the Soviet bloc, which, I suspect are either downplayed or ignored in American school curricula. As a result, I have written a basic guide to socialist economics, drawing on my personal experience growing up under communism. I hope that this – somewhat longer piece – will be read by the millennials, who are so often drawn to failed ideas of yore.
As a boy growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, I would, for many years, walk by a building site that was to become a local public health facility or clinic. The construction of this small and ugly square-shaped building was slow and shoddy. Parts of the structure were falling apart even while the rest of it was still being built.
Recently, I returned to Slovakia. One day, while driving through the capital of Bratislava, I noticed a brand new suburb that covered a hill that was barren a mere two years before. The sprawling development of modern and beautiful houses came with excellent roads and a large supermarket. It provided a home, privacy, and safety for hundreds of families.
How was it possible for a private company to plan, build, and sell an entire suburb in less than two years, but impossible for a communist central planner to build one small building in almost a decade?
A large part of the answer lies in “incentives.” The company that built the suburb in Slovakia did not do so out of love for humanity. The company did so, because its owners (i.e., shareholders or capitalists) wanted to make a profit. As Adam Smith, the founding father of economics, wrote in 1776, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
In a normally functioning market, it is rare for only one company to provide a certain kind of good or service. The people who bought the houses in the suburb that I saw did not have to do so. They could have bought different houses built by different developers in different parts of town at different prices. Competition, in other words, forces capitalists to come up with better and cheaper products – a process that benefits us all.
Communists opposed both profit and competition. They saw profit-making as useless and immoral. In their view, capitalists did not work in the conventional sense. The real work of building the bridges and plowing the fields was done by the workers. The capitalists simply pocketed the company’s profits once the workers’ wages have been paid out. Put differently, communist believed that the capitalist class exploited the working class – and that was incompatible with the communist goal of a classless and egalitarian society.
But capitalists are neither useless nor immoral. For example, capitalists often invest in new technologies. Companies that have revolutionized our lives, like Apple and Microsoft, received their initial funding from private investors. Because their own money is on the line, capitalists tend to be much better at spotting good investment opportunities than government bureaucrats. That is why capitalist economies, not communist ones, are the leaders in technological innovation and progress.
Moreover, by investing in new technologies and by creating new companies, capitalists provide consumers with a mind-boggling variety of goods and services, create employment for billions of people, and contribute trillions of dollars in tax revenue. Of course, all investment involves at least some level of risk. Capitalists reap huge profits only when they invest wisely. When they make bad investments, capitalists often face financial ruin.
Unfortunately, communists did not share the above views and banned private investment, private property, risk-taking and profit-making. All large privately held enterprises, like shoe factories and steel mills, were nationalized. A vast majority of small privately held enterprises, like convenience stores and family farms, were also taken over by the state. The expropriated owners seldom received any compensation. Everyone now became a worker and everyone worked for the state.
In order to prevent new income inequalities and new classes from emerging, everyone was paid more-or-less equally. That proved to be a major problem. Since people did not make more money when they worked harder, few of them worked hard. The communists tried to motivate or incentivize the workforce through propaganda. Posters of strong and determined workers were ubiquitous throughout the former Soviet empire. Movies about hardworking miners and farmers were supposed to instill the population with socialist zeal.Propaganda alone could not increase the productivity of communist workers to Western levels. To incentivize the workforce, communist regimes resorted to terror. Workers who slacked off on the job were sometimes convicted of sabotage and shot. More often, they were sent to the Gulag – a system of forced labor camps. Sometimes, the authorities arrested and punished completely innocent people on purpose. Arbitrary terror, the communists believed, made the rest of the workforce more productive.
In the end, tens of millions of people in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, and other communist countries were sent to labor camps. The living and working conditions in the camps were inhuman and millions of people perished. My great uncle, who was accused and convicted of being a supporter of the underground democratic opposition in communist Czechoslovakia, was sent to mine uranium for the Soviet nuclear arms program. Working without any protection from radiation, he died of cancer.
By the late 1980s, communist regimes lost much of their revolutionary zeal. Terror and fear subsided, and productivity declined further. Thus, in the late 1980s, an average industrial worker in Western Europe was almost eight times as productive as his Polish counterpart. Put differently, in the same time and with the same resources that a Polish worker needed to produce $1 worth of goods, a Western European worker could produce $8 worth of goods.
Just as they replaced the profit motive with propaganda and terror, so the communists replaced competition with monopolistic production. Under capitalism, companies compete for customers by slashing prices and improving quality. Thus, a teenager today can choose between jeans made by Diesel, Guess, Calvin Klein, Levi’s and many others.
Communists thought that such competition was both wasteful and irrational. Instead, communist countries tended to have one monopolistic producer of cars, shoes, washing machines, etc. But, problems soon arose. Since producers in communist countries did not have to compete against anyone, they did not have any incentive to improve their products. Compare, for example, the BMW 850 that went into production in West Germany in 1989 and the Trabant that was made in East Germany at the same time.Communist producers were protected from domestic competition by having a monopoly. They were also protected from foreign competition by prohibitively high import tariffs or an outright ban on imports. Put differently, they had a “captive” consumer base. The Trabant car manufacturer did not have to worry about losing consumers, since the latter had nowhere else to go.
Moreover, the workers at the Trabant car plant received the same salary irrespective of the number of cars they produced. As a result, they produced fewer cars than were needed. People in East Germany had to wait for many years, sometimes decades, before they were able to buy one. Indeed, shortages of most consumer goods, from important items such as cars to mundane items such as sugar, were ubiquitous. Endless queuing became a part of everyday life.
Under capitalism, shortages are generally avoided through the movement of prices. Some prices, like those of national currencies traded globally, change virtually every second. Other prices change more slowly. If there is a shortage of strawberries, for example, their price will rise. As a result, fewer people will be able to buy strawberries. On the upside, the people who value strawberries the most and are willing to pay the higher price will always find them.
The movement of prices provides important information for the capitalists. Capitalists take their money and invest it in more profitable business ventures. If the price of something is rising, not enough of it is being produced. Investors rush in with new capital, hoping to make a profit. Production increases. The economy as a whole thus tends toward an “equilibrium” or a point at which capital is distributed roughly where it is needed.Prices are an important source of information, but where do they come from? In a capitalist economy, nobody sets prices. They emerge “spontaneously” in the market place. Every time I buy a cup of coffee on the way to work, for example, I incrementally increase the price of the coffee bean. Every time I fail to buy my usual morning cup of coffee because I am late for work, I decrease its price by a tiny amount. If everyone stopped buying coffee, its price would collapse.
Communists banned profit, capitalists, competition, free trade and much (if not all) private property – all of which are necessary for accurate prices to emerge. Instead, tens of millions of prices for items ranging from tractors to a loaf of bread were set annually (or every few years) by government bureaucrats. Since they could neither accurately predict how much bread would be produced (i.e., supplied) nor how much bread would be consumed (i.e., demanded), the bureaucrats almost always got the prices wrong.
Price-setting made shortages associated with low productivity worse. If the price of flour was set too high, bakeries would bake too little bread and bread would disappear from shops altogether. If the price of flour was set too low, too much bread would be baked and much of it would end up rotten. Put differently, communist economies were very inefficient.
To complicate matters, communists sometimes mispriced items intentionally. The price of meat, for example, was kept too low year after year out of political considerations. Low prices created an impression of affordability. On their trips abroad, communist officials would often boast that the workers in the Soviet empire could buy more meat and other produce than their Western counterparts. In reality, shops were often empty. As a consequence, money was of limited use. To get around shortages, many people in communist countries resorted to bartering goods and favors (or services).
Under communism, the state owned all production facilities, such as factories, shops and farms. In order to have something to trade with one another, people first had to “steal” from the state. A butcher, for example, stole meat and exchanged it for vegetables that the greengrocer stole. The process was inefficient, but it was also morally corrupting. Lying and stealing became widely used and trust between people declined. Far from fostering brotherhood between people, communism made everyone suspicious and resentful.Of course, not everyone was equally affected by shortages. Government officials and their families could generally avoid the daily hardships of life under communism by having access to special shops, schools, and hospitals. Communism started as a movement for greater equality. In reality, it was a return to feudalism. Like feudal societies, communist societies had an aristocracy composed of the communist party members. Like feudal societies, communist societies had a population of serfs with limited or no rights and little possibility of social mobility. Like feudal societies, communist societies were held together by brute force.
I am sometimes asked why, if communism was so inefficient, it had survived as long as it did. Part of the reason rests in the brute force with which the communists kept themselves in power. Part of it rests in the emergence of smugglers, who made the economy run more smoothly. When, for example, a communist shoe factory ran out of glue, the factory manager called his contact in the “shadow” or “underground” economy. The latter would then obtain the glue by smuggling it out of the glue factory or from abroad. Smuggling was illegal, of course, but it was preferable to dealing with the government bureaucracy – which could take years. So, in a sense, communism’s longevity can be ascribed to the emergence of a quasi-market in goods a favors (or services).
If one wondered why former Congress prime ministers looked at Russia, while leading the non-aligned movement, the answer is that the Communists are a source of inspiration. Well, Communists can inspire others in how to perfect the art of HYPOCRISY.
When the revolution in Russia culminated in ending the Czar rule and began the ‘Rule of People’, in the name of people, Lenin and Stalin killed people. Perhaps, Stalin’s valor in killing his own people inspired some Indian leaders, so they named their kids after him. After all, we are a country, where people even name their kids after Timor.
Then there is the other Communist Country that still thrives; China. Well, Chinese mastered the art of hypocrisy more than Indians and Russians put together. Perhaps the legacy of Kung-Fu taught them the value of practice, they chose to practice even hypocrisy with the same devotion. Chinese leaders have simply replaced rulebook but retained the original cover. Incidentally the rulebook was for economics. Though the ghost of Karl Marx wanted to go to Beijing to protest the blatant blasphemy to Marxism i.e., practicing Capitalism with a capital A in the name of Communism, fearing for his life (even ghosts fear Maoists) he chose to remain in the liberal Germany.
The Indian Marxists, a bunch of smoking-room intellectuals who, much like Marx have never ventured to work and are now competing with their Chinese counterparts. Well, when even the school children know that the opposite of Chinese is ‘Original’, Marxists from the God’s Own Country want to be the original Hypocrites.
The unwritten code of conduct of Marxists is that they should not believe in God. Perhaps the logic behind this dictum is ‘if we pray to Gods, what will we do to Marx”? So, they choose to pray to Marx, while proclaiming to be atheists. Atheists or not, Marxists always retain the core value of Marxism i.e., Hypocrisy. That is the reason why they remain in air conditioned rooms smoking imported cigarettes discuss about ways to achieve equality amongst proletariat.
There is a temple in the town Azhikkal in Kannur district. Kannur district is normally in the news whenever CPM workers eliminate their opponents, as per the officially proclaimed strategy. Now, Kannur is in news for another thing, reaffirming the faith of Communists in Hypocrisy. In Azhikkal, during the annual festival of Paambadiyal temple, the goddess tours the town in a procession called “Thiruvayudham Ezhunnallathu”.
And the goddess, whom everyone (at least the believers) consider their mother is biased against Dalits. Bhagawati, while touring the town skips the homes of Dalits. All the while, Dalits participate in the procession, carrying the sacred swords of Devi. The place is primarily a Naga Kshetra, where snakes are worshipped.
The temple is primarily a base for ‘Thiyya’ community. And there is no bar on anyone to enter the Kshetra. Unlike regular temples, this is a place where there is a Banyan tree and a stone pillar. And this resembles any regular ‘Naga’ kshetras in the south. Alternate sthala purana says the place is also the same place where two separated goddesses (sisters) meet.
For some unknown reason (my bad mind thinks it is for money), the temple is controlled by CPM. Officially CPM cannot control temples, as it is against the stated principle of atheism. So, unofficially CPM workers practice the unstated principle of Marxism and thus control the temple and its functioning.
Like the typical way, Communism works, CPM controlled committee is for eliminating caste based discrimination everywhere, but in its own back yard. Now, Dalits are protesting the discrimination by the goddess (or the Marxists).
Dalits want the goddess visit their homes and bless them too. And the eternal villains, the Chaddiwalas (Oops, they are now upgraded into Trouserwalas!) want the goddess to provide the much talked about ‘social justice’ in the Marxist Country. Really it is frustrating for CPM workers as more and more Trousers are sprouting, despite regular killings. In fact, killings by CPM should be called ‘culling’ because of the high frequency.
Temple president says Dalits have no role in the temple and the procession is routed through the houses of communities that are associated with the temple. All the while, he wanted to utilize services of Dalits to carry swords.
His opponent one Thekkan Sunil, who is undertaking a 72-hour long hunger strike says the procession visits all Hindu households, despite the ritual follows the Thiyya and the exception is only for Dalit households.own
Does anyone in the national media has the time and guts to talk about what CPM does in the name of ‘equal rights’? Ever wondered why the hell all Communist parties choose ‘red’ for their flags, irrespective of factions? Because, the lands that are ruled by Communists were coated ‘red’ with the blood of those who got killed by the Commies.
I really would like to watch Ravish Kumar going to Azhikkal and ask a Malayali in Bhojpuri “Kaun Jaat Ho”? Well, nothing is going to change as nobody would like to waste their ill-gotten award over few Dalits fighting for their justice – against the most pious theology called ‘Marxism’.
It seems even the noted newspapers from the south, The Hindu and The New Indian Express have given this news a miss, as I failed to find the news reports in their sites. Maybe they are all waiting for the situation to take a turn so that they can report it later “How Chaddis are stroking caste based violence in the peaceful Azhikkal by provoking innocent Dalits against the liberal Marxists.
‘La Cream de La Cream’ is the same CPM fights for women’s entry into Sabarimala, which is the only place of worship where there never were any caste/religion discrimination. Girls before puberty and post menopause can visit. Women who could conceive are asked not to visit only because the deity there is a bachelor. Now, CPM wanted to test the capacity of the celibacy of Lord Ayyappan and so they wanted women to enter Ayyappan Temple.
But, the same CPM is against Mother Goddess visiting homes of Dalits. Well, Indian Marxists have proved they are original Hypocrites. Let the Chinese remain Chinese version of Marxists!
Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, the renowned literary giant of South India, in 1982, republished the collection of his short stories, Anargha Nimisham(Invaluable Moment) originally published in 1946. In the collection was a short story titled, ‘Unal Haq’, a Khalil Gibran-style retelling of the condemnation and killing of Mansoor Al-Hallaj, the 10th century Persian mystic. Basheer had drawn the parallel between the spiritual declaration of Mansoor ‘Unal Haq’ and Upanishadic Mahavakyas – not something novel in itself, as many scholars had done that already.
In the 1982 republished work, Basheer had made a clarification: “Now I believe that ordinary human beings who are just the products of the All Mighty saying things like “I am God” is a sin. I had also claimed that the work is based on a real story, but now; take it just as a fantasy.”
Was this a genuine change in the inner realm of the writer? Or was it signalling something sinister that has been going on in Kerala towards which the intellectuals had willfully shut their eyes to?
One is compelled to look at the reversal in the stand of Basheer with regard to his short story, in the larger context of the dark metamorphosis Kerala was undergoing in a systematic way. In 1985, the case of Sulekha Bibi surfaced. In Beemapally, very near the state capital Thiruvananthapuram, Islamic institutions in Kerala had tonsured the head of a woman, Sulekha Bibi, and had also awarded a punishment of 101 whippings. The event was only the tip of the iceberg. This was followed, by an Islamic court, again near Thiruvanathapuram, ordering that a divorced Muslim woman with two children be beaten till she was unconscious and that her head be tonsured. She was charged with adultery.
It was not just the Islamic fundamentalists who were implementing such systematic censorship and extra-constitutional authority with the support of the political class. In 1986, Kerala had banned the famous playwright P M Antony’s Kristhuvinte Araam Thirumurivu (The Sixth Sacred Wound of Christ). It was an adaptation of the Last Temptation of Jesus Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis. Even 20 years later the situation remained the same. The church could ban movies and books. Kerala became one of the seven Indian states that banned Da Vinci Code in 2006. This time the Christian organisations were joined by Islamist fundamentalists. The All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema declared its support for the movie ban.
The fundamentalist-Nehruvian secularist-Marxist axis in the state has had its internal quarrels, but the constituents were always able to join hands against the common enemy – the Hindus. In the wake of Shah Bano case controversy, EMS Namboodiripad then a veteran Marxist ideologue, suggested some reforms to Islamic laws in the mildest manner, but the retaliation was massive and vehement. Rallies were held and Islamists chanted “We would marry two or three, even the daughter of EMS if need be” (Rendum Kattaam Moonum Kattaam; EMS inda Ponnaiyum Kattaam). Even such humiliating insults would not deter the Marxists from entering into electoral alliances with Islamic fundamentalists. Forging an alliance with the same Muslim League, soon the veteran Marxist would gleefully exclaim, “We would cooperate with the League in Malappuram and they would offer cooperation to us in districts where we have majority.”
The events which unfolded in subsequent years would show that the cooperation that EMS spoke about was more than political. As virulent Islamist bodies like the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Development Front (NDF) etc emerged, there was virtually a competition between Marxists and Nehruvian secularists as to who would cater to the increasing demands of the fundamentalists. So the cadre of Communist Party of India (Marxist) youth wing, Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), joined hands with Islamist fundamentalist storm troopers of PDP and did moral policing in Malappuram. The cadre would enter houses, drag out the women whom they charged of doing ‘undesirable activity’ and indulge in physical violence as well as traumatic public humiliation.
That women should be modest or else violence as well as sexual assault against them could be justified, is a stand that unites the Kerala Marxist and Islamists. E K Nayanar (1919-2004), a patron saint in the Church of Kerala Marxism, had ruled as chief minister for 11 years. He repeatedly made vulgar jokes against women in public. On the increasing number of rapes of tourists in Kerala at that time, he quipped that for American women, rape was as common as drinking a cup of tea.
Today ‘Darul Khada’ or extra-constitutional Islamist courts flourish in Kerala. Their punishments are widely known yet whispered secrets of horror in the state. It was only because of the sordid episode of the chopping off the palm of Professor T D Joseph, the Malayalam professor in a Christian institution in the state, that their functioning received even the limited amount of media glare. Had the chopped hand belonged to a Kafir rather than a ‘believer of the book’, even this attention would not have been given. Most of these events of intolerance and passive muted submission to forces of fundamentalism happened in Kerala during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule at the centre or in the 1980s during the Congress rule. The build-up towards a Taliban-cum-medieval Christian state has been steady and inevitable. Most of the intellectuals kept silent or satisfied themselves with occasional outbursts against isolated events.
Bhashaposhini, a 125-year-old literary magazine from the house of Malayala Manorama, the largest-selling daily in Malayalam, which appeared in the stands in the morning of 16 December 2016, simply and silently disappeared. When it reappeared, a painting done by artist Tom Vattakuzhy for a play, was missing. The play was about Mata Hari, a dancer executed by the French for syping during the World War. The painter had depicted an image with nuns sitting around a bare-breasted Mata Hari in the style of the famous last supper scene. However the same magazine now had as its cover the photo of a sculpture of Sree Narayana Guru in not exactly an honourable way.
Now Bharat Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), a political organisation with Ezhava support base, the community in which the Vedantic seer was born, took this as an insult. BDJS happens to be a constituent of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state. Naturally, this has given a handle to the ‘progressives’ to see the entire event as part of the so-called ‘right wing intolerance wave’. However, the BDJS opposition is only an exception. There have been stray voices, sometimes purposefully created by letterhead organisations, to whip up a victim-hood market value. With such organisations, there are no real dangers, unlike the powerful church outfits, which can cost the political destiny of the party and the Islamist outfits, which can finish off both mortal and political destinies.
It should be realised here that the Nehruvian secularism and Marxism pampering fundamentalists is not mere vote bank politics. They both have ideological affinity to political Islamism and institutional Christianity. It is not uncommon for Muslim leftist intellectuals to become ideologues of Islamist movement when the latter becomes powerful. As early as 1942, a Muslim member of the central committee of the Communist Party of India asked its Muslim members to join the Muslim League in Punjab. One should understand that it was not opportunism. It is more because of the intuitive understanding of the synergy between Marxism and political Islam as totalitarian movements, which while making use of the existing freedom of speech for their expansion, strangle the same when they get their hands on power.
In Kerala too the same phenomenon got repeated. EMS Namboodiripad (1909-1998) carved out Malappuram district, after an explicitly communal demand made by the Muslim League, which would have disastrous consequences for not just communal relations within the state but also, over the decades, for national security itself. In 2006, the same year Kerala banned the movie Da Vinci code, Frederick Forsyth made an insightful observation on Kerala in his Al Qaeda-based thriller, The Afghan: “Once a hotbed of Communism, it has been particularly receptive territory for Islamist terrorism”.
In 2016, Kerala would notoriously lead other states in cases of radicalised Muslims being recruited for ISIS.
This may explain why the press is always majority left-wing bias.