October 1, 2021
From Monthly Review
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Saroj Giri teaches politics at the University of Delhi.

In India, today, we are witness to the quiet rise of the figure of Mahar Sidnak, iconized and lionized as a warrior of the oppressed from the early nineteenth century. This is electrifying the anticaste struggle and energizing the militant youth, a source of inspiration as historical as it is mythical. Sidhnak is the hero of the Battle of Koregaon of 1818, in which a smaller group of “lower-caste” Mahar soldiers crushingly defeated a large army of the Peshwa rulers, who were upper-caste Brahmins. This battle, a part of the Anglo-Maratha War, was a major milestone in the military consolidation of British colonial rule in India, since the Mahars were fighting as members of the British Army.

What seemed like a pure and simple case of colonial consolidation was paradoxically also a step forward in the struggle against caste oppression. Every year on January 1, a huge commemorative event takes place around the colonial military obelisk in the village of Koregaon by the Bhima River to celebrate the valor and sacrifice of the five hundred Mahar soldiers over the Brahmin rulers. It is not an official event, but a popular festival with music, sloganeering, dancing, mementos, public speeches, and selling of relevant badges. Thousands of “lower-caste” people (Dalits) converge from different parts of the country as a show of strength against Brahminical domination, even as mainstream leaders make a beeline to retain their populist appeal. People also come to pay their respect to “lower-caste” saint Govind Gopal Mahar, whose shrine is very close by, in the village of Vadhu Budruk. The “lower-caste” narrative about the saint and his feats, however, is challenged by the “upper-caste” Marathas—a dynamic that came to a head in a riot situation in 2017 and 2018.

A 2017 celebratory poster for the event, featuring B. R. Amedkar, the visionary leader of the untouchables in the twentieth century, against the background of the memorial obelisk, declares: “1st January: 500 brave warriors who fought for twelve hours without food and water against 28,000 mighty army of the Peshwas and finally defeated the Peshwas.”

Sidhnak, who is supposed to have led the five hundred brave warriors, is prominently depicted in a 2021 movie poster. The movie, The Battle of Bhima Koregaon, is a major cultural milestone, with a politically committed director belonging to the oppressed caste and a cast of well-known mainstream Bollywood stars. It can be seen as a radical step in mainstream cinema. While historical and mythical “hero movies” are the staple of recent Indian cinema, very rarely does the heroic protagonist challenge the hegemonic and dominant representation of the nation and culture. Sidhnak therefore comes as a breath of fresh air.

Sidhnak also figures in inspirational songs about the kind of resistance Dalits must put up against the new ruling classes, often called the “New Peshwai.” You find expressions like “garjana Sidhnakchi,” meaning “the thunderous and roaring Sidhnak.” Thousands of Dalit youth tap their feet to the beat of a song by the artist Jyoti Jagtap, who sings, “Bhima Koregaon has taught us a lesson / Bury the New Peshwai / Blow the Peshwai to smithereens / and bury it / Roars Sidhnak.”

What stands out is that Sidhnak and the Battle of Koregaon have now been properly mythologized, through both the folklore of popular resistance and the mainstream entertainment industry, not to mention scores of crowd-sourced YouTube videos and passionate commentaries.

Of course, mytho-historical figures like King Bali, the just and compassionate king of yore, play an even bigger role in Dalit and Shudra radical social imaginary. Important mainstream accounts of Bali already exist in Brahminical mythological accounts called the Puranas. Jyotirao Phule’s popular play Gulamgiri (1873) portrays Bali as an anti-Brahminical figure, providing a narrative of how Aryan-Brahmins were foreign invaders who came to displace the original inhabitants (moolniwasi) of India, subsequently pushing the latter into the “lower caste” category. Bali valiantly resisted this invasion but was defeated through guile and trickery.

Sidhnak and the Battle of Koregaon easily fit into, indeed derive their power from, the saga of King Bali’s epic struggle against Brahminical dominance.

Myth versus History?

The intermixing of myth and history around Bhima Koregaon has been such that a very prominent Dalit intellectual, Anand Teltumbde, warned of its inherent “danger.” In 2018, he penned an article, straightforwardly titled “The Myth of Bhima Koregaon Reinforces the Identities It Seeks to Transcend.”

Teltumbde argues that “it would be grossly erroneous to attribute loftier motives” to the Mahar soldiers. The fact is that these “were simply wars between the two ruling powers (British vs. Peshwas), which their soldiers fought just as their duty. To make them appear as anti-caste or anti-religion will not only be factually incorrect, but also an erroneous understanding of historical caste.” He continues: “Obviously, all of them [Mahar soldiers] were not against the Peshwas. Most of them were not even against the Hindus.” Teltumbde wants Dalits to engage in “real struggle” around material issues without such distractions: “For that, they better open their eyes to see the reality, rather than an ostrich-like look into the mythical past and imagine their greatness.”

We will have to examine, then, if Teltumbde is right to assume that invoking what he calls “the mythical past” necessarily leads to a weakening of resistance. But, more fundamentally, we might have to ask: Is the question of invoking the past even a matter of “choice”? Does not the past necessarily impinge on the present, particularly when the “invoking” is not done by a committee or institutional apparatus, or even a set of individuals, but through a living community’s process of memory and forgetting? Is someone like Teltumbde trying to self-isolate from such “messy” memories and their implications in the search for a pure and rational notion of the past—and a politics based on such assumed self-transparency? Is the “past” an option we can choose not to exercise? Are material issues, or “real struggle,” really so opposed to the question of the “mythical past”?

In other words: Are Sidhnak and the radical legacy of the Battle of Koregaon unfortunate symptoms of the capitalist mytho-spectacle, or does it, instead, cut through it, thereby challenging and subverting such spectacle? Thankfully, we can say that it could be the latter. For, surely, there have been instances where a mythical figure, or a figure who is part-mythical and part-historical, is held high to carry forward the class struggle, or the anticolonial struggle.

Spartacus

Let us recall the mytho-historical figure of Spartacus, as imagined by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in the founding of the Spartacist League in 1916. The socialist revolution was then conceived as not just a response to the “present conditions” under capitalism, but also as the fulfillment of an ancient sequence of the slave revolt. The class struggle in Germany was conceived in broader terms, breaching the framework of modernity, as part of a longer saga of the human struggle against oppression. Heralding a proletarian revolution, Liebknecht could thunder: “Spartacus stands for the fire and the spirit, the soul and the heart, the will and the deed of the proletarian revolution.”

Now consider Furio Jesi’s reflections, several decades later, on the Spartacist Uprising of January 1919. Jesi recounts the revolutionary militants in battle who experience “genuine myth” as they are on the verge of occupying a city, releasing it from the clutches of reactionary forces. Every small act of militants in battle is a complete act in and of itself, regardless of the larger strategy and tactics of the “revolution as a whole.” One exits historical time. The militants’ actions are such that their fruits and content coincide, “it contracts historical time into the reality of the primordial”—what Jesi calls the “mythical epiphany” of revolt.

Mythical epiphanies “are interferences of extra-temporal truth into the existence of those who think themselves to be enveloped in historical time.” The interferences of extra-temporal truth free militants from historical time such that, then, in full felicity, the past can be accessed from within the bosom of the present. The extra-temporal truth is not in any way an abstraction into a rarefied zone, but one wherein the past is as salient as the present, where the present, as it were, leads to the uplifting density of the past. In the figure of Spartacus, the “past” saga of the fight against oppression appears to shine in and through the class struggle in the present. The mythic epiphany, then, is not an organicist bubble, but part of a strategic movement, a rupture (“extra-temporal truth frees the militant from historical time”) that bears witness to the full density of historical oppression. It is not an easy (empty) gesture of “freedom” or “liberty,” but one graciously bearing the weight of the world, the “burden” of the past.

Recall here Georg Lukács’s critique of what he thought was Luxemburg’s organicist conception of revolutionary subjectivity—her “overestimation of the organic character of the course of history” and “overestimation of the spontaneous, elemental forces of Revolution.” I am fully in agreement with Lukács on this point, hence the “mythic epiphany” I propose is one that foregrounds the question of strategy and rupture, not an organicist conception but a dialectical one, without however abandoning the question of historical oppression in all its density and onerous weight.

Mackandal or the “Maroon within Us”

It might then be quite sobering to keep in mind that Sidhnak is not the first such mytho-political figure standing for the fight against oppression and injustice. Such figures, as with Spartacus, have risen many times before. But considering Sidhnak’s interface with Western colonial empire, it would be better to think of the Mexican Emiliano Zapata or the Haitian François Mackandal, who are similarly located.

The mytho-political character of Zapata and Mackandal finds powerful articulation in the works of anticolonial writers like Alejo Carpentier and Eduardo Galeano. Haiti’s maroon rebel Mackandal embodies tremendous mythical powers, what Carpentier calls the “Powers of the Other Shore.” Mackandal’s rebellion in 1751 is like the primal scene, not just for the later 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti, but, one might dare say, for all of Black rebellion and Black power outside of Africa.

Deep from within a hazy past there often shines forth a hero figure, historical and mythical in equal measure. The figure exudes miraculous powers and fantastic possibilities. In the dense interrelationship between the past, present, and future, a fact lifted from the inner recess of history can suddenly acquire a kaleidoscopic, many-sided meaning and resonance in the present. Like racing through a Borgesian hall of a thousand mirrors, an image or a figure from the “primordial” darts into the present, through innumerable pathways and reflections and refractions. This is how the past and the present get “connected,” one illuminating the other. How else has the fantastic story of Mackandal’s public execution in eighteenth-century Haiti arrived at us? Carpentier recounts the story in his gripping novel The Kingdom of this World.

With an intimate knowledge of the flora and fauna of Haiti, the one-handed Mackandal, who lived in the mountains above the colonial plantations, specialized in making fatal poison from plants, using it as weapon in the slave rebellion against the French. Once caught by the French authorities, he was set for execution among throngs of onlookers comprising fellow slave-rebels. Lo and behold, he turned into an insect, a mosquito perhaps! Then what? He vanished into thin air, sending the slave-owning masters into a tizzy. The enslaved masses rejoiced deliriously.

That afternoon, after what appeared like a failed execution, “the slaves returned to their plantations laughing all the way. Mackandal had kept his word, remaining in the Kingdom of this World. Once more the whites had been outwitted by the Mighty Powers of the Other Shore.”

The white slave masters killed Mackandal, but he is still here on Earth, “remaining” in the Kingdom of this World. In death and in dying, he has kept his word by summoning “the mighty Powers of the Other Shore.” Thus mythologized, Mackandal’s powers and the saga of the “maroon republics” in the mountains of Haiti are not just of the “past” but also of the “present”—or, rather, the past in the present. The maroon is not “out there,” it is “within us,” as Asa Hilliard wrote in 1995, inspiring African Americans to awaken themselves to the powers of Mackandal and other slave rebels. It is the “past” without which the “present” is impoverished, lifeless, dead.

Hilliard gives an even more poignant sense of the layers of meaning here, when he explains that maroon is derived from the Spanish word cimarrón, “which referred to escaped cattle living in the wild.” In his classic Black Jacobins, C. L. R. James points out: “Those whose boldness of spirit found slavery intolerable and refused to evade it by committing suicide, would fly to the woods and mountains and form bands of free men—maroons.”

Zapata, Galeano

Similarly, for Galeano, the struggle against colonialism is as much about neocolonialism and global inequality as about mobilizing the powers of the mythical world, where the anticolonial messiah Zapata is guarded by stars and witches flying in the night. Zapata, the Mexican revolutionary, is now revered as a Messianic figure. Galeano wants the reader to savor this Zapata phantasm:

Little star in the night
that rides the sky like a
witch, where is our chief
Zapata
who was the scourge of the rich?

If you want to know about Zapata or connect with him, you have to gaze into the night sky and talk to the stars. A star is not angelic, but “rides the sky like a / witch.” This is only fitting, since Zapata “was the scourge of the rich.” Through an animation of the fantastic realm, an intimacy is achieved with Zapata, but, the symbols, imagery, and metaphors are overturned. It is the witch over the angel, or perhaps, the witch and the angel.

Galeano is narrating here the “Ballad of the Death of Zapata,” also called the “Resurrection of Zapata.” Zapata is never dead; actually, his physical death means very little. Galeano transports his readers to a world where everything is sentient, shiny, and layered. For now, the world, this world, finite and limited, is under the infinite Powers of the Other Shore. The real is mythical and the mythical is real, kaleidoscopic and dreamy. No wonder he titled his book Mirrors: The Stories of Almost Everyone.

Mackandal, Sidhnak, Zapata, Spartacus—and we must add here Birsa Munda of the millenarian ulgulan (the Great Tumult in late nineteenth-century India)—are as real as they are mythological. Following Carpentier, we can call this notion of the mythological the “marvelous in the real.”

We live in the present, but the past, as a mythical luminosity, is constantly swirling around. It might be the memory of a long-lost mythical relating to the world. Such a mythical relating was once upon a time a concrete lived reality, and it is only from the vantage point of a particular notion of the present that it appears and is likewise experienced as distant and fantastic. Deep inside the imaginary of the struggle against injustice, we often find such a concrete fantasy, an inner striving, corporeal and sensory, which is illuminated by the past but is of the present, in the present.

Buddhist Sangha

If the past is not a mere option for the present, but is integral, then we find that, in the Indian hall of mirrors, another powerful ray of light illuminates the “Dalit present”: Buddhism. India’s much longer history, in particular the very close relationship with antiquity, the Powers of the Other Shore, the “marvelous in the real,” takes us to Gautam Buddha. If the primal scene of Dalit liberation is the Battle of Koregaon or the feats of Sidhnak, then its historical depth comes from the example of egalitarianism and equity within the Buddhist Commune, or the ancient Sangha (collective/commune). Several scholarly works within the Dalit community depict the Mahar soldiers as descendants of those rebel Buddhists from antiquity who fought against the dominant Brahminical order. The Battle of Koregaon is then another terrain in the long confrontation between Buddhism and Brahminism carried over from antiquity, and instantiated in King Bali or Mahar Sidhnak (and, yes, Western colonialism can look like a small detail in this epic canvas!)

Dalit liberation movements recount the stories of the Buddha and his Sangha as memories of a world that once existed, memories that come alive today as the marvelous and fantastic. And here we find that the Powers of the Other Shore would surely include the radiance of the Buddha, the Awakened One. The story of the Buddha most popular among Dalit communities is perhaps the one of Angulimala, the cruel, bloodthirsty bandit living in the wild. When Angulimala comes face to face with the Buddha, he is completely overtaken by the latter’s radiance and the power of compassion. Angulimala surrenders and then becomes a follower of the Buddha, taking the path of compassion and brotherhood.

If you go to YouTube and search for the ancient story of Angulimala, you will see how popular it is, particularly among the youth. The mythical past of these stories and of the Sangha, then, are not really “past” in any flat sense. The Sangha as a social imaginary and inner striving is not really “past,” but something that is felt, experienced (boddhi) in the present. The past is of the present.

No wonder Ambedkar in the twentieth century felt the need to rewrite the story of the Buddha in The Buddha and His Dhamma, providing a new formulation of the age-old ideas of Buddhism. He proposed Navayana Buddhism, New Way Buddhism. The “past” actively undergirds the realm of possibility within the present; the spirit of the present stands on the bones of the past.

Benjamin’s Historical Materialism

It must be clear then that the “past,” as the Powers of the Other Shore or the “marvelous in the real,” is not something to be discovered through an objective investigation of the past. It is not at all, as Teltumbde seems to imagine, a question of rationally reconstructing the facts of the past as “they actually happened.” As Walter Benjamin powerfully expresses, “to articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.”

Take note of “flashes”—a metaphor of light and image. A memory is seized on, as it flashes up at a moment of danger. A moment of danger in the present forces us to suddenly seize a particular “fact” from the past that then plays in front of us (“flashes”) as a powerful and moving image. Here in the midst of the struggle, in 2021, in a moment of danger, the 1818 Battle of Bhima Koregaon flashes up in the consciousness of the “lower castes”: it is not the battle, “the way it really was,” what actually happened, but as it seizes hold of our memory in the present.

In this moment of danger, Benjamin continues, “the true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.” It is as though a ray of light from the present—from the moment of danger—shone into the inner recess (the “past”) and flashes certain memories, whose true picture flits by and we must be able to grasp. Here, again, we have the world more like a hall of mirrors, with endless possibilities, collapsing temporal registers, rather than a long train of linear “progression.” It is why a Mackandal or a Sidhnak can “keep their word” and seize hold of us with their Mighty Powers in the present.

The Battle of Koregaon now arrests our thinking: “thinking involves not just a flow of thoughts but their arrest as well.” Benjamin allows us to appreciate that the battle or the mythical figure of Sidhnak or Mackandal now stands for “a configuration pregnant with tensions”—which is in turn given a shock “by which it crystallizes into a monad,” “blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifework.” Here is a moment of rupture, a dialectical movement, if you like. The past is not a glorious myth to be revived in the present. It does not prescribe an organicist notion of a volkisch community from the glorious past. It is instead the trigger for a rupture, blasting a specific life in and out of the present. Sidhnak and the Battle of Koregaon, as we recall them in the present, blast open a specific life out of the era of anticolonial resistance—and, in this case, also destablizing the very notion of the “anticolonial” that persistently overlooks the fight against internal colonialism, namely, Brahminism. Similarly, the Buddhist Sangha blasts a specific life out of the long Indian antiquity, one that answers the call from within the present “moment of danger.”

It is not simply that the present is “connected” to the past, the present Dalit movement is “connected” to the Battle of Koregaon of 1818. Rather, the Battle of Koregaon, refracted through “time” and “space,” is in my consciousness of the present. The distance between 2021 and 1818 is bridged—for example, the scores of amateur YouTubers sharing radical content on the Battle of Bhima Koregaon seem to experience no problems given the lack of factual evidence or access to the “real motives” of the Mahar soldiers. The questions about evidence and motive, so important to “rational history,” are simply not relevant here—and might in fact set radical politics down a slippery slope. Far from a gap, there is total identification: the participants of the Battle of Koregaon seem to speak in and through these young activists and YouTubers. But it is not any revivalist identification with the past, but part of inaugurating a new sequence, exploding the status quo, without however disavowing the full weight of history, of past oppression.

Fight Against Fascism

As Benjamin shows, the question of past oppression or historical oppression is integral to the notion of the past—and indeed to any project of a “better future” or a “liberated society.”

What is the upshot of this for antifascism? While many tend to think of fascism as reviving myths of past glory (for example, the Aryan myth for the Nazis), Benjamin writing in 1940 sees in it a futuristic technological movement based on the reactionary excitation of the working classes. Nazi theorists portrayed the working class, or rather “workers,” as proudly riding the ecstatic waves of technological prowess and life-sacrificing war, what Benjamin calls “moving with the current.”

Ernst Junger placed the worker on the pedestal, as the leading estate, an autonomous dominion providing “form” to the coming tumult in society and leading the charge against bourgeois decadence. The worker would plunge or rather levitate into the highly accelerated and technologically advanced production, ready, at the same time, to sacrifice oneself ecstatically in the furnace of war. Junger thought of the worker in the image of the luminous medieval warrior and mythical pagan heroes. Here we see the relationship of the fascist mytho-historical with the accelerationist logic of capital, a phenomenon that would surely fit Jesi’s description of the “technicization of myth.”

Let it be noted here that we can very well understand this phenomenon in its essential dynamic through Karl Marx’s critique of political economy and his labor theory of value. Engagement with myth, or what learned experts would call the “cultural or symbolic dimension,” does not at all lead us away from Marx and his political-economy approach. It only impels us not to treat the “critique” in Marx’s “critique of political economy” (for example, in Capital) as just an idling insertion.

Benjamin’s analysis is a good example. He superbly grasped this internal logic of fascism in Nazi Germany: “Nothing has corrupted the German working class so much as the notion that it is moving with the current. It regarded technological developments as the fall of the stream with which it thought it was moving.”

Now, this “moving with the current” surely passes off as the “break with the past.” This is nothing but “futurism,” which had absurdly become a kind of zeitgeist in Europe during the 1920s and ’30s, something social democracy secretly shared with fascism. In particular, futurism overlooked the relationship with historical oppression and the question of the past.

Benjamin absolutely nails it when he describes how “social democracy thought fit to assign to the working class the role of the redeemer of future generations, in this way cutting the sinews of its greatest strength. This training made the working class forget both its hatred and its spirit of sacrifice, for both are nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.” As a pure redeemer of future generations, with no basis in the history of past oppression, the supposedly “forward- looking” working class was bereft of “the sinews of its greatest strength.” It was fighting fascism asininely without anger, without a sense of hatred or revenge—only to, often, cross over to the other side. Could we say that Benjamin here is warning us against the wavering and capitulating antifascism that would follow from “rational history” and “rational politics”?

Injunction and Sequence

Benjamin invokes Marx, for whom the oppressed class is revolutionary when it becomes “the last enslaved class,” and it “completes the task of liberation in the name of generations of the downtrodden.” For Marx, the struggle of the working class must be “nourished by the image of enslaved ancestors rather than that of liberated grandchildren.” Benjamin is able to show how to engage in a struggle that is not futuristic, or “forward-looking,” or even “revolutionary.” Nor can we be content with such a struggle only “addressing” the “problem” of historical oppression or oppression from the past. “Addressing,” the way, say, affirmative action is meant to “address” the history of slavery or caste oppression, is not enough. Instead, the inner sinews of the struggle, comprising the full weight of the world and the past, must be strengthened, all in a relationship of utter density—encapsulated in the experience of the “maroon within us.”

Such a weight of the world is often coeval with, for example, what Pier Paolo Pasolini once called the “popular model of illiteracy that nonetheless was privy to the mystery of reality.” Pasolini was referring to the sub-proletarians of Italy who, “until a few years ago, respected culture and were not ashamed of their ignorance.” The myths around Bhima Koregaon find their abode in such “popular models of illiteracy” and, though they might rankle the custodians of “rational history,” they are very alive to the “Powers of the Other Shore.” Such a “popular model” is also what Phule invokes when referring to the many festivals and rituals commemorating King Bali practiced among the Shudra moolniwasis (“lower-caste” original inhabitants) of India.

The past appears in its immediacy in the present. It is not about collecting or documenting these past struggles, or putting it all down in history books as “rational knowledge,” but of how they speak in and through present struggles—refracted and recirculated through the world. “Rational history” and “rational politics” easily lend themselves to the acceleration of capital, with the vast majority (workers, the precariat, or even the middle class) apparently “moving with the current” or riding the wave. This is a recipe for a fascist futurism underpinned by the glories of a mythic past. The “mythic epiphany” of the rebel taking over the city, and Mackandal or Sidhnak’s “Powers of the Other Shore,” powerfully block this fascist futurism. Here is a dialectical movement powered by the depth and density of the memory of historical oppression. Such is the insight of historical materialism. This is not, however, just an “intellectual” insight; it is inseparable from the political injunction and sequence of Bhima Koregaon today. It beckons a commensurate political practice.

Notes

  1. 1 जनवरी, शौर्य दिवस की आप सबको बधाई।1818 को इसी दिन केवल 500 महार सैनिकों ने 28000 पेशवाई फ़ौज को हराकर भारत को जातिमुक्त और लोकतांत्रिक बनाने की दिशा में पहला ऐतिहासिक क़दम बढ़ाया।,” Samaybuddah (blog), January 1, 2017.
  2. Jyoti Jagtap, in Jyoti Punwani, “The Young Woman Who Would Not Cry,” Article 14, October 23, 2020.
  3. Interestingly, Jyotirao Phule dedicated Gulamgiri (Slavery) to “the good people of the United States [of America] as a token of admiration for their sublime, disinterested and self-sacrificing work in the cause of Negro slavery.”
  4. Anand Teltumbde, “The Myth of Bhima Koregaon Reinforces the Identities It Seeks to Transcend,” The Wire, January 2, 2018.
  5. Karl Liebknecht, quoted in Gabriel Kuhn, All Power to the Councils (London: Merlin, 2012), 124.
  6. Furio Jesi, Spartakus: The Symbology of Revolt (London: Seagull, 2014).
  7. Jesi, Spartakus, 27.
  8. Jesi, Spartakus, 27.
  9. Lukács, History and Class Consciousness (London: Merlin, 1971), 277–79.
  10. Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of This World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006), 46.
  11. Asa Hilliard, The Maroon within Us: Selected Essays on African-American Community Socialization (Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1995).
  12. Hilliard, The Maroon within Us, 52.
  13. L. R. James, Black Jacobins (New York: Vintage, 1989), 20.
  14. Eduardo Galeano, The Memory of Fire Trilogy (New York: Open Road, 2014), 1610.
  15. For a popular song on the ulgulan, see “बिरसा उलगुलान (BIRSA ULGULAN) यह गीत आदिवासियों का महानायक बिरसा मुंडा उलगुलान को समर्पित है।,” YouTube video by MIX PRODUCTION, April 27, 2019.
  16. Carpentier, prologue to The Kingdom of This World.
  17. Jean-Luc Nancy uses an interesting phrase, “mything humanity,” meaning, humanity that cannot be separated from myths and mythologizing. See Jean-Luc Nancy, “Myth Interrupted,” in The Inoperative Community, ed. Peter Connor (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
  18. No wonder Ambedkar wrote a tract comparing the Marxist ideal of egalitarianism with the Buddhist Sangha, since both seem to reject the institution of private property. Of course, he favors the Buddhist ideal. See B. R. Ambedkar, Buddha or Karl Marx (Scotts Valley: CreateSpace, 2015).
  19. This includes not just scholarly works, but also the popular mythical tales that are all over the Internet, particularly on YouTube.
  20. Elsewhere, I have tried to read the Buddha’s Enlightenment, nibbana, as a rupture, inaugurating a new political possibility and subjectivity in the society of his time—and also a “past” undergirding the present. See Saroj Giri, “The Buddhist Ineffable Self and a Possible Indian Political Subject,” Political Theology 19, no. 8 (2018).
  21. R. Ambedkar, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, vol. 11 (Bombay: Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1992).
  22. Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Harcourt, 1968), 255.
  23. Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 255.
  24. Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 262–63.
  25. See Ernst Junger’s 1932 work, The Worker: Dominion and Form (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2017).
  26. Jesi takes this phrase from Kerenyi. See Jesi, Spartakus, 156.
  27. Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 258.
  28. Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 260.
  29. Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” 260.
  30. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Corsair Writings, available at “Corsair Writings – Pier Paolo Pasolini,” libcom.org,



Source: Monthlyreview.org