Lucas Plan Documentary, 1978

This film, “The Story of the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Alternative Corporate Plan” was made in 1978 for the Open University. It documents an unusual episode in British corporate history. Shop stewards from Lucas Aerospace, facing massive redundancies, developed their own plan to safeguard their jobs by moving the business into alternative technologies that would meet social needs, as well as new methods of production.

Reviving Pan-Africanism: Or, communism as the only viable anti-colonialism of our times

Cécile Winter

Returning to the Ancestors

Not for nothing did they want African unity and, to begin with, big states. Not for nothing were they all prevented from achieving those goals.

The country called “Centrafrique”, or “The Central African Republic”, is in agony. Barthélemy Boganda, who ought to have become the country’s first president, did not call what is today the Central African Republic “Centrafrique.” What he understood by that name, rather, was a country comprising what is today the so-called Central African Republic (formerly Ubangi Shari), the Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, and Chad: all “countries” visited in a single day on January 2, 2014, by the French defence minister; we shall return to this. “If Ubangi Shari had to achieve independence on its own someday,” Boganda wrote, “this would be a catastrophe”. Barthélemy Boganda died in a well-organised helicopter accident in the March of 1959. Once he had been eliminated, the dismemberment of the territories proceeded in accordance with the wishes of France.

Why is it that history – in particular, this history – of the first wave of the African struggle for liberation from the colonial yoke, and for independence, is so carefully erased? These days, the Central African Republic has the honour of appearing in the newspapers, we shall see how. In these articles, the name of Boganda never appears. On the part of the colonial rags that are the French dailies as a whole, this is perfectly normal, you will say. Yes, but what of the ‘radicals’, the progressives, the activists, those ‘outside the system’, the people with a higher degree of consciousness, and so forth? None of that even exists, you will say! Maybe. You will begin to exist once you have learned to put Africa at the centre of your world: this is a thesis we do not hesitate to propose. And, conversely, how can you, dear comrades, who are troubled, and protesting here and there, let yourselves be cut off from yesterday’s history, from that which concerns you above all? How can you let yourselves live only in the present moment?

Let us pick up that thread again: that is our only watchword. Let us pick up the thread of history, there where it was broken. What were the questions? What were the watchwords? How were we defeated? How should we pick up the cause again? Yes, “let us pick up the long debate where we left off. And you may urge your arguments like snouts low over the water: I will leave you no rest and no respite.” [trans. Mary Ann Caws]

***

But first: before speaking, potentially, internally, to those who would join us, let us pause, for everyone else as well, on the Central African Republic. Let us read the imperialist rags for them. We must know how to read them closely; in other words, how to call them into question. Le Monde, the number one colonial rag, tells us the story of how Michel Djotodia was deposed. He was forced to resign on January 10, 2014, after two days of discussion in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.

Here’s the story the newspaper tells us in its edition of January 10, 2014. Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, receives Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French minister of defence, on January 1— in other words, a full month after the deployment of the French Sangaris forces, a month during which Chadian soldiers are patrolling with the French. Idriss Deby wants to depose Djotodia after the latter announces a plan of partition for the north of the Central African Republic. Certain compensations, the article tells us, “have been exchanged with the principal military partner of France”. Le Drian reaffirms his confidence in Idriss Deby, France’s “perfect” military ally in Mali. On January 2, Le Drian goes to Bangui, then to Brazzaville to consult with Sassou N’Guesso, then to Ali Bongo in Gabon, then back to N’Djamena that same evening just as Djotodia is arriving there, summoned by Deby. On January 3, Djotodia’s resignation is announced.

So there you have it: a deal briskly conducted by the two good Franco-Chadian friends, and the story in Le Monde dutifully congratulates itself on it.

But then:

Why wait a month after the arrival of Sangaris to depose Djotodia, while murders and other horrors are piling up? And without a single gesture in the direction of disarming the notorious Seleka? But that isn’t all. The Seleka was formed in August 2012. For months, its commandos, composed especially of Chadian and Sudanese mercenaries, advance toward Bangui, leaving behind them a path strewn with destruction, looting, arson, murder, and rape; none of this in any way troubles France, which, incidentally, has nothing to say about it to its perfect Chadian ally. Djotodia takes power in Bangui in March 2013. Still no complaints. The lootings, the murders, violent acts of all kinds continue; horrors keep piling up. Things are, as far as our Franco-Chadian friends are concerned, still for the best.

So, wasn’t Djotodia our man, as people there believe, in view of the oil recently discovered in the north of the country, and which is coveted by the Chinese, among others? Wasn’t the former president, perfectly corrupt and calamitous, by the way, therefore perfectly suitable for the rest of us, having had the weakness to request comparative studies before the exploitation of the oil-fields? But doesn’t France have a birthright there, which would explain its policy of benign understanding — to say the least — for the notorious Seleka?

Or should we believe that what is happening there is a sudden rise in temperature in a country where Christians (80% of the population) and Muslims had been living side by side without any problem? Is this just a case, as L’Express puts it blandly, of “scenes of ordinary hatred” (sic!)? “Ordinary” strikes us as particularly sickening. Since the seizure of power by the Seleka, one million people have had to flee their homes — this in a country of 4.7 million.

Nonetheless, we indeed read that it is the threat of secession of the country’s north —where the oil is — that frightened Idriss Deby, already grappling with the Darfur business and the secession of neighboring South Sudan. And is there ever an end to the carving up of oil concessions controlled by mercenaries? We also understand that the Djotodia card has so far not been entirely abandoned by the Franco-Chadian accomplices; as his lieutenant has stated, “negotiations are still going on”. Everything depends on what spare parts are available. Otherwise, wouldn’t this stooge have been handed over for punishment to so-called international law? He was allowed to go and settle in Benin, instead.

For a comparison, let us consider the fate that was reserved for Laurent Gbagbo, the former president of Ivory Coast, at the time of his arrest by the French military in April 2011. He was, indeed, delivered to the famous international court, and has remained imprisoned in The Hague since November 2011. In June 2013, a preliminary hearing took place. Its purpose was not to judge him but to determine whether or not there were, in fact, grounds for a trial. The court ruled the incriminating evidence presented by the prosecutor provided insufficient grounds for a trial. (According to what has been said among the people of Ivory Coast, the prosecution made a film intended to prove the violent acts committed by Gbagbo, but the defence was able to prove that this film was, in fact, a montage filmed in another country that even in this proceeding would have made a bad impression.) The prosecution appealed, but the court confirmed its decision on appeal, and asked the prosecution to provide it, by November 2013, with more substantial evidence that would allow it to rule on the possibility of a trial. The prosecution appealed this decision concerning the time it was granted, and the judges suspended the deadline. The prosecutor therefore, has a free hand to pursue her investigations indefinitely. The imprisonment of Gbagbo, which is supposed to be reviewed every 120 days, has just been confirmed again.

In case you are still puzzled, there has been, in the meantime, an editorial in the newspaper Le Point entitled, ‘The Central African Republic, the Risk of Partition?’. It begins with a photograph captioned: ‘Former Seleka rebels are escorted out of Bangui by Sangaris soldiers’. In the photograph the so-called rebels are clearly displaying their rifles and guns.  In no way are they disarmed. The article seriously considers the risk of secession, in this “hemmed-in, remote region, bordering Chad and the Sudan”. The region, the article continues, is extremely poor but potentially rich. It contains yet-to-be-exploited diamond mines and oilfields. The licence for this was granted to a Chinese company (China National Petroleum Corporation) in 2010 by ex-president François Bozizé. So here we are. This wasn’t just a threat, it was a work in progress. Whence the Selekian emergency.

The article continues: “a partition of the CAR would be too dangerous for Chad”. But, “more than a partition, the ‘risk’ (the quotation marks are mine) in the north of the CAR is the development, with the arrival of the Seleka rebels, of a region increasingly cut off from Bangui — one that would be a vast self-managing ‘black hole’ (their quotation marks this time) in the heart of Africa, adjacent to the Darfur region of the Sudan, in which the rebels from the entire area would be living together. In short, a golden opportunity for all the jihadist groups that are swarming there”.

And a golden opportunity for our oil tycoons too! Not a single state, not even the most embryonic hint of one, to stick its nose into their business. From off-shore to off-shore, we proceed directly from the African “black hole” to the European or American tax haven, without spilling a drop, with everything necessary right there in terms of armed bands to be corrupted, paid, and employed as mercenaries. Exactly as we are now doing in the north of Mali. This is why our soldiers are busy escorting the ex-Selekas armed with their guns.

Of course, the human cost is rather high. We are talking about nothing less than ethnic cleansing. For, up until now in the CAR, Christians and Muslims had been living together. “Muslims form only 15 percent of CAR’s population. A majority in the north of the country, they are now being joined by those people of the CAR, who are fleeing Bangui and the central cities to escape from the massacres by the anti-Balaka Christian militias”. It is, therefore, rather difficult to bring this operation to a successful conclusion; which is why Hollande needs more troops, and he has appealed for help from his European neighbours, etc…, all the while having a bit of trouble explaining what exactly is at stake.

This, then, is the Central African Republic: one million out of 4.7 million people living as refugees.  It’s this: “I went there to see and help my family, who are with thousands of people living in refuge near a church. I have neither been able to meet with them nor to bring them anything. There’s no water, and people talk about epidemics. All I’ve seen is how people I knew have grown emaciated in just a few weeks, since they can no longer go to work and have nothing to eat”. It’s this: “Entire families, including old people, women, and children, have their throats cut in their homes.”  It’s this: “My family took refuge near the airport.  My brother wanted to go see how our house was.  He was killed.” And it’s this: “My aunt sent her son to look for water; there isn’t any in their neighborhood. He was killed on the way.”

The promoters of these massacres, and those responsible for this cataclysm, ought to be looked for in Paris.

Let us stop here on the French side. You will begin to exist once you have learned to put Africa at the centre of your world, we say. Yes, because colonial complicity has been the gangrene of French society for a century now, and has brought it to the state of advanced rottenness, of mental and moral disintegration, of the paralysis and lifelessness that everyone enjoys deploring nowadays. Deploring is one thing; getting out of this state is another. Colonial complicity is the inherent mode of French society’s membership in, and consent to, the imperialist world order. We think, it is the very basis of that passion for ignorance that subjugates this entire society — from the hideouts of the intellectuals to the most distant suburban housing-projects. The disintegration of the French Communist Party and, consequently, the complete disappearance of French workers from the scene was the price of the dishonourable behaviour of this party during the war in Algeria. Since then matters have gone from bad to worse. Speaking of colonialism in the past tense, declaring that one is living in the “post”, turning it into a mere subject for history books — these are signs and symptoms of that profound complicity that feeds the passion for ignorance. The Central African Republic is today, Brazzaville is today, the de facto partition of Mali is today, the repercussions of the destruction of Libya are today.  And so on and so forth. If this is happening, it’s because everyone accepts, everyone goes along with, a situation in which some people can die so that others — we others — can continue in the security of their being. In other words, the motto of a Boganda (“Zo kwé Zo”, “every man is a man”), exactly the same as that of Aristide in Haiti (“tout moun se moun”, every man is a man and everyone belongs to the world) is, indeed, the heart of the matter: complicity consists in going along with the denial, as if self-evident, of this basic assertion, of which we are no longer even obliged to be aware. This, moreover, is precisely the meaning and function of the unspeakable nonsense known as “the humanitarian ideology”.

So what is at stake here is that you, rare potential reader of this text, might decide in yourself, indeed even only for yourself, in your soul and in your consciousness. Yes or no: should French newspapers, and among them in first place the noble Monde, be called “nauseating colonial rags”? Yes or no:  should the celebrated international penal court be called STI, that is, Stinking Tool of Imperialism? Yes or no:  should the word “humanitarian” be systematically bracketed together with the modifier “unspeakable”? Or are these just excesses on the part of the author of this text, whose ardour one understands and even forgives but by which sophisticated people, in the fairness and level-headedness of their judgment, avoid getting carried away?

It is very much our wish that, even without going further, you agree to ask yourselves the question, indeed to do a little investigating on your own side, for yourselves. And if you should ever arrive at the conclusions that we ourselves have reached, we wish that, for yourselves, you might not forget the modifiers above, even when, like everyone and all of us, you read Le Monde or contribute to some humanitarian enterprise. And then we wish that you might even make your feeling known to some of those around you, when the subject is mentioned, etc…. That really isn’t insignificant. There will already be that. One must separate oneself. Separate yourselves.

***

Having said this, let us pick up the thread, for the inside, from the inside. Let us pick up the thread as activists.

The great ancestors speak of unity and pan-Africanism. Is this just a case of cultural coquettishness, as we can read on the websites of international institutions today? Not at all. The ancestors think that there must be big states, without which there is no way to defeat colonialism. They think that it is necessary to combat, above all, ethnic, territorial, familial, and tribal divisions.

Boganda (see the attached text) wants a true Central African State (that is, what is today the Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, and Congo-Brazzaville) as the first step toward the United States of Latin Africa. Lumumba, fights inside the Congolese National Movement against federalism (the CNM will split into two over this question in 1959). He has to deal with the centrifugal tendencies of Joseph Kasa-Vubu’s Abako (in the Bakongo region), but also in the other regions. His struggle is for the unity of the Congo; going against this struggle, the imperialists, as we know, stir up secessionism as soon as independence is proclaimed.

The Union of the Peoples of Cameroon — whose watchword is independence and the reunification of the country — takes the utmost care in all its proceedings and all its committees to mix cadres from the different regions of the country. France, of course, plays one region off against another, especially the north against the south.

Kwame N’krumah, the president of the first independent African state, writes: “Africa must unite.” His goal, too, is the United States of Africa. He attempts a union with the Guinea of Sekou Toure, before being deposed by a coup d’état and having to take refuge in Guinea as a private individual.

Modibo Keita proposes a union with Niger and Senegal, which Senghor’s Senegal opposes. Later, after he has been deposed by a coup d’état, Sekou Toure’s Guinea proposes a union to his successor Moussa Traore, but this time it is Traore who refuses.

Boganda and Lumumba are assassinated. France begins a decade of bloody war to destroy the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon. Nkrumah and Keita are deposed by coups d’état. Later, Amilcar Cabral, commanding the liberation struggle of Guinea Cape Verde, is assassinated, thanks to the stirred-up jealousy between the peoples of Guinea and Cape Verde. As a result, there is no longer a single country, but rather two pieces — Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde — in accordance with the wishes of, above all, behind Portugal, the Americans, in order to keep their military base on Cape Verde.

The first question to decide is this: were the ancestors right or not?

It seems clear to us that the future — our present — has only shown, and shows every day, how right they were. You need big states to oppose imperialism and colonialism. And for that, it is absolutely imperative to be able to overcome the division and ethnicisation that colonialism, for its part, is constantly working to cultivate. “Wanting to create little specks of states in the twentieth century is a retrograde policy…whose result will be the disappearance in short order of these very states and the loss of their independence,” wrote Boganda. Could there be a better description of what we are witnessing today?

Let us put it differently. Weren’t they right, or rather, didn’t they measure how right they were?

What Is Independence, and Do We Want It?

Revolving Door of Independence

Independence was the keyword in the struggle of the great ancestors. Behind this flag, the immense majority of the people followed them. It was time to be done with contempt, with servitude, with frenzied exploitation. Time to refuse the whole ghastly colonial period. To have one’s own country, one’s own flag. Finally, to be master of one’s own house.

However: there were quite a few opponents of independence, particularly among the educated class, the potential cadre. The shortcut that best suited them was to attach themselves to the imperialists and to reap all the rewards of this attachment, and to stay within the local chefferies. (In these countries, where access to education was rigorously forbidden to the people, where only a few could accede to the status of the “middle class”, it is obvious that the said class, dissociated from the people and in the service of the imperialists, is infinitely corrupt and corruptible, and it remains obvious to this day:  the “middle class” is the very node of the well-known “desire for the West”.) On one side, the local potentate and the imperialist service; on the other, the construction of big, truly independent states. On the basis of this watchword, the great ancestors — Nyobe, Lumumba, Nkrumah, Boganda, etc. — launch their appeal, often personally, often impelled by their verbal force alone, to the people, and the people answer them. We thus understand why, despite their different situations, Nkrumah, Nyobe, and Lumumba all issue exactly the same watchword: immediate independence.

But it is the colonialists and the imperialists who jumped at this watchword. Independence? Of course! Right away; we’re giving you the gift of independence right away; we’re even more immediate than you.

In Congo, Lumumba anticipated the formation of the first government in January 1961. At that time, he is dead. Belgium offers independence on June 30, 1960; 10 days later, on July 10, the rich province of Katanga secedes, fomented by the Belgians: troops, planes, Belgian generals descend on it and the country is set ablaze. Between Lumumba’s first trip to Katanga (in January of 1960), in handcuffs and with his face battered, before the Belgians drag him out of prison to sit him down at the Round Table to see if they can corrupt him, and his second trip to Katanga where he will be put to death (January of 1961), only a year has elapsed.

In Cameroon, the masquerade of the independence ceremony takes place in January 1961, while war is raging and supporters of independence are being tortured two streets away. Um Nyobe, the leader of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon, had been assassinated by French troops two years earlier (September 13, 1958), in the forest of the Bassa region in the south of Cameroon; his second in command, Felix Moumié, will be assassinated in Geneva by the French services two years later (on November 3, 1960).

Independence everywhere meant aggravating and accelerating the destruction of the supporters of independence, putting them to death in cases where they hadn’t already been killed. Independence meant the murder of any hope of independence, crowned by the physical death of any potential African leader who proved not to be corruptible. This is where we still are today. This is what we are just beginning to recognise.

We Are Often Ridiculously Naïve

That is a quotation from Mao Zedong. The masses are clear-sighted, whereas we (the leaders) are often ridiculously naïve.

From the perspective of today, one cannot help applying this epithet to the great ancestors, the heroes and giants of the struggle for independence. They were just, they were clear-sighed, they served their peoples, and they were upright and incorruptible. But they proved to be ridiculously naïve, and their naiveté intensified the catastrophe. On the whole, there was still something in them of the tragic greatness of the Indian chiefs of North America who signed treaties believing in their value because they saw the whites as men, although the reverse was not true. These chiefs saw the whites as men who ought, therefore, to behave like men and, they thought, like men of their word. The giants of the African struggles for independence, although they had had time to get to know “the whites”, although they had the horror and brutality of the colonial experience behind them, committed the same error. This suggest the colonial experience was not enough to make them see clearly. In fact, it was thanks to the brutality and horror of that experience that too many things were left out of sight, in the shadows; the motive for the whole business, its driving force, was not so clear.

Fundamentally, we have to consider that the colonial relation as such is also a screen. Whence the element of the imaginary, so important especially in the history of Congo, and which deserves a lengthy study in its own right (from Congo to Fanon to the young girls of Abidjan today who inject themselves with corticosteroids to whiten their skin); whereas the cold monster of capital has neither odour nor colour. And “Piraeus is not a man”. We, therefore, need to rethink colonialism as, at once, instrument and lure, including for its agents themselves.

For sure, at that time the illusion was contingent on its context – the world situation then. The end of the Second World War, and with it the bursting forth of a new era: the weakening of the two great colonial empires, England and France to the benefit of the US, which, not having colonies but wanting to open up new markets for itself, had little difficulty in declaring its support for the end of the colonial system; the existence of the “socialist camp”, the counterpart of American power. All these factors contributed to the sense of an open space, of a possible play among nations capable of recognising new nations, and there were big new nations (like India); and the assembly of the United Nations bringing all of this together in the representation of a space of rational speech, judgment, and law.

They thus believed that they could rely on a space of law and avail themselves of a time for building. Besides, the goal, and already the result, of a mobilisation and a victory over the colonialists, was to go and express oneself in the forum of the United Nations. All this was conducive to the belief that the contradiction was, indeed, between the old, the colonial, and the new, the right to independence, the right of Africa to enter into “the chorus of nations”. To be more precise, all this led to the belief that the contradiction existed in itself, “all things otherwise being equal”. Therefore, Um Nyobe devotes all his energy to arguing precisely and passionately in terms of law; while Lumumba asks “that we merely be permitted to rid ourselves of colonialism (and of imperialism)”, “without jeopardizing Belgian interests”. Fundamentally, this was the idea that the world could recognise “everyone”, its division into two blocs opening up space for a third term — the “third world”, the “non-aligned”, etc. — where it would no longer be obligatory to think in antagonistic terms but where, to the contrary, a time of peace and building was opening up, beyond antagonism. (Hence the care they took to refute the “accusation” of communism, which in effect served to justify the immediate reconstitution of the space in antagonistic terms, those of a fight to the death. You should go on the internet and watch the video of Messmer, a minister of De Gaulle’s and a member of the Académie Française, calmly declaring 30 years later that, yes, his practice of bombing with napalm, of torture, of decapitated heads displayed at the gates of the villages of Cameroon, was entirely justified, since “these weren’t independence fighters, these were revolutionaries”; “independence,” he says, “was us”.)

Independence has, indeed, been recapture and annihilation. The United Nations immediately proves to be the tool of the US, the spearhead of subjection. No time has been allowed for a process of disillusionment and for drawing up lessons of experience. Kwame Nkrumah, who tells us how he took office — in the governor’s palace where yesterday it was all congratulations and the handing-over of power, there is not even a light-bulb in the ceiling, or a chair, or a ream of paper, maybe in the corner a broken chair — understands that a much more terrible war is now declared. He writes his biography, from his school years until the proclamation of independence, then, immediately afterward, ‘Africa Must Unite’, then, immediately after that, ‘On Neo-Colonialism’, a catalogue of the multinational companies that are squeezing the African continent with their tentacles, with their branches and their boards of directors where the same people sit not only in multiple companies but also in the ministries of the “developed” countries. When he writes his final book, Consciencism, he is already in exile: everything must be thought and picked up anew, at a much deeper level, a much more radical one.

Picking Up, Then:  Two Big Mountains, Not Just One

Naivety, therefore, consisted in believing in a contradiction between colonialism and the desire for independence, “all things otherwise being equal”. The illusion was to imagine that the world, as it was, could recognise new states; the actual experience was that of a war aimed at the immediate annihilation of the supporters of independence, in order to safeguard the imperialist stranglehold over the natural riches of Africa against any risk of interruption.

But then, we must, at least, expand (hear?) the lesson: getting to know imperialism…but what is imperialism? Capitalism at its highest stage, none other than the definition given by Lenin in 1916; imperialism, then, cannot do without zones of looting, of free looting, the end of the old colonial system having signified the opening up of looting zones for free competition among imperialists. (This is the reason why the US proved so supportive of the much-celebrated decolonisation process, all the while cooperating so actively in the annihilation of the supporters of independence.).

Consequently, if this is true, there was not and is not a “path of development”. Just as capitalism needs constant access to new “labor-power”, exploitable at low cost, in order to counteract the downward trend of profit rates (and this roughly explains the move toward Asia), so it needs direct access to raw materials; and at its highest, “imperialist” stage, the dismemberment of the world having been completed, competition is all about this access.

We should note that the socialist camp — we could even say the progressive camp as a whole — played an extremely harmful role at the time by propagating the idea, which is to say the illusion, of a “third way”, of an autonomy of so-called national liberation struggles; and we should include as well the Chinese theory of “three worlds”, with the idea of the relative autonomy of the level of the states (independence being assigned to the level of states, etc.). All this implies a topological view of the world, with a “centre” and a “periphery”, the struggles for anti-colonial liberation taking place on the periphery.

The experience has proven that this was wrong, that exactly the opposite was the case. From the point of view of imperialism, in other words of capitalism in its current stage, in other words of the world today, Africa, the site for the looting of raw materials and for the fierce struggle to get the loot, is central. And it has to deal with the beast at its very heart.

A young friend from the Central African Republic tells us everyone there accuses Idriss Deby, but often stops at that point without going as far as Paris. That, according to her, is the case even though everyone knows Paris is the instigator and that what is at stake are the oil and diamonds in the north of the country. She says by way of explanation: “But it’s because we don’t understand what France wants.” What don’t you understand? On the contrary, you have a very clear understanding of everything. Here is her answer: “No, we know we’re still colonised, but then, they should just take their oil and their diamonds, but why kill poor peasants or send them to death? That’s what we don’t understand.”

What is to be understood then is that decolonisation meant the passage from a relatively stable consensus in sharing of the world among imperialists (the result of the wars among them in the preceding period) to a predominance of competition among them, which made Africa into their battlefield, where they are now fighting through African intermediaries. This is why some people are capable of missing the old colonial times, which, although horrible, were endowed with a certain stability, compared to the lawless savagery of imperialism at a more advanced stage — one of greater rottenness, in which the earth of Africa is only a space for brawling among bandits, with the peoples of Africa as pawns in the struggle.

But there is no going back. And imperialism is indeed the outcome of capitalism according to its own internal law.

One must, therefore, figure out how to confront the beast itself. This is why the great majority of Africans, who have had this experience, who have seen and understood this (in itself a source of power, a great step forward, an end to drifting in dubious imaginary battles), are so pessimistic about any possibility or opening, in any case in the short term. There is no independence and there will be none for quite a while; and they are convinced at the same time that the decisive struggle will take place in the long term.

So, in order to achieve clarity on this point, we propose from now on to call colonial anything having to do with the consensus among imperialists that Africa should remain a zone for looting, with concerted action and mutual aid to maintain this situation, and with a western ideological consensus on this point, particularly by means of ad hoc international agencies, while imperialism strictly speaking is the looting itself and the looting-war among the imperialists. And this is what makes Africa a battlefield: the battlefield of intra-imperialist competition and war for access to raw materials.

There is colonialism: the consensus and the agreement among imperialists that Africa should remain a looting zone. A good example would be the following excerpt from Le Monde, France’s number one colonial rag about the Congo (note its striking peroration): “China, the United States, and Europe need the treasures housed in the country’s subsoil; they cannot lose interest in what is happening on its surface.” Only the African continent, in particular the Congo, the object of such tender solicitude, must have no use of the riches of its subsoil.

But colonialism is the envelope and the outer garment of imperialism in action, in other words as the practice of looting and the fierce competitive struggle for the loot. Colonialism and imperialism are therefore inseparable. Colonialism is nothing more than the envelope of ideological consensus of imperialism as such. To take up the anti-colonial struggle in its first period was to go face to face with the beast without having anticipated it or even having known it in advance. In the end, this was the naivety. Today, however, after having had this experience, we would be not naïve but guilty if we did not know how to learn lessons from the past and to think truly about the present.

We said, for “the other continent”:  you will begin to exist once you have learned to put Africa at the centre of your world.

We can now say a bit more about this somewhat paradoxical statement. For of course, the alleged thesis, in the labor-union style, which in the preceding period claimed a “convergence of interests” between the colonised peoples and the poor of the rich countries, has been proved to be a complete failure. Experience has proven that there was no such convergence, and at the time Frantz Fanon very precisely denounced this thesis as the hoax that it was. What we can add is that, in today’s imperialism, not only is there no “convergence of interests”, but the interests in fact diverge radically. With the worsening of the competition for access to raw materials, poverty is increasing in the western imperialist countries and it will keep on increasing. Thwarted in its hunger for external expansion, capitalism can only regress to an older, 19th-century type of configuration, by excluding from the redistribution of what used to be called “crumbs” larger and larger zones of the old metropolitan states. Fewer and fewer crumbs:  that is what we are witnessing today. And this clearly explains the almost unanimous colonial consensus that reigns supreme in a country like France — and which can only get worse in a time of crisis. It also explains the fascist-leaning subjectivity developing all over Europe, which also can only increase as time goes on. Not to see this would not be naivety: it would be pure madness.

No convergence also means no unity negatively constituted around a supposed common enemy. Any supposed negative unity must quickly prove to be an illusion.

Consequently, if you must put Africa at the centre of your world, you must do so from a disinterested point of view. Indeed, it is precisely here, considering what has just been shown, that the touchstone of disinterestedness will lie. Now, any real politics — in other words, really incompatible with the existing capitalist order — is disinterested. For what is at stake is precisely not to submit to rule of private interests, but rather to intervene from another point of view, which we could call the point of view of humanity as a whole, or the point of view of equality, the point of view of the right of everyone to exist: “Every man is a man.”

It is from this point of view that we can say that your relation to Africa serves as a touchstone of your capacity to be free, or to make yourself an effective exception to the existing order.

Let us clarify another point. Serving the interests of capital or serving the interests of humanity:  serving private interests only being a variant of the first term. But this having been said, of course, it is the duty of everyone to survive, in other words to make his or her place in the world as it is, while avoiding as much as possible hurting others in the process. The whole question is thus to know, on the one hand, if one knows it, according to the phrase of Martin Singap, leader of the underground forces of the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon in the Bamileke region, quoted in the book Kamerun. “At the end of the terrible summer of 1960”, the underground troops are attacked ferociously, and the chief of staff of the ALNK (the Army for the National Liberation of Kamerun) has ordered the exhausted elderly, women, and children to return to the “secured” villages on the model of the French army in Algeria, for it has become impossible for Singap to keep alive, in the backwoods, thousands of families exposed to bombing and to the general precariousness of the life of the underground. “In a huge meeting of militants organized by the UPC on September 5th, 1960 in Mangui, from 7:30 until midnight, at which no fewer than 1500 people were present, a leader explained Singap’s order to his comrades: ‘all of you are going to return to your native villages…. The enemies of our country will take you for supporters, but it is you who will know who you are. Know who you are. Know, moreover, which is even more important, whether that is all you will do, or whether you will do something “in addition”, something beyond. And it is on this point that we arrive at real politics, that is to say, politics incompatible with the capitalist order; that is to say, communist politics. Politics is already communist insofar as it is “in addition”, insofar as it is, as we used to say, free labour. Communism; in other words, the point of view of “all humanity”, finally depends on the extra half-hour that one can snatch from an already busy day, when one does not participate in the bourgeois world. To understand this thing that looks so simple, but that is not so easy to put into practice, is really to learn the lesson of the past century. With this point, we get to questions of activism, questions of politics.

What Is to Be Done

First, let us agree on the basic theses; if they are true, we must speak them. In other words, affirm them:

As the great ancestors wished, there must be big states. This has become even truer insofar as Africa is more than ever the looting zone of global imperialism and has become the stake in the competition among imperialist groups and the site of their battle. It definitely takes a big state to be able to expropriate a multinational company and to kick out of one’s home the armed gangs in its pay. Big states as a proposal, a watchword, a line to follow, an objective. This means states that completely transcend borders of ethnicity, religion, and nationality in the narrow sense of the term. That will be one of their great virtues, and it is moreover a direction for work that can begin immediately: completely separate political questions from all questions of identity, which, we will posit, come under the heading of free association, adding that states must guarantee this freedom but that the politics that interests us, intervening on questions of general interest and from the point of view of general interest, is indifferent to questions of identity, is diagonal to them, and does not exist on the same register, except in intervening to require states to guarantee the right of free association and even to encourage it in every way possible. (This politics goes completely against the contemporary trends that preach, on the contrary, that politics simply is questions of identity; also against the worn-out discourses along the lines of “everything is political” – discourses by the same people who, not afraid as they are by contradiction, also complain that political organisations victimize their identity. No, politics is about concerning oneself with political questions, and not with the rest. Let us be clear. From the point of view of politics, which needs energetic subjects, the more of “the rest” there is, that is, the more singular identities there are (the more ramified and solid symbolic constructions there are), the better things will be. Imperialism needs individuals who are defeated and exhausted, which is why it makes sure that beginning in their most tender years children are forbidden any possibility of symbolic construction; in so doing, imperialism threatens to destroy any civilisation, and gets busy making good on the threat. For us, exactly the opposite is the case. The more subjects there are, and the more singularities there are, the more humanity there will be and the more chances for humanity there will be. Mobilising around cultures, musics, languages, testimonies, and memories, going to places of worship: this does not contradict the work of political unification, quite the contrary. But it is not at all the same thing. Claiming that it is the same thing, or that one should rule over the other, would be catastrophic.)

Unity, around and through political proposals and watchwords, is an essential theme, and it is a goal for work that is always possible here and now, whatever the scale of this work may be. It requires maintaining that political unification is a process independent of questions of identity and indifferent to them, constructing itself on the basis of its own themes, perhaps in sympathy with questions of identity but in any case at a distance from them.

Where to find the strength to construct and impose these big states? Certainly not at the level of the states or of their personnel. On this point, the experience of the great ancestors is definitive; their efforts at this level all failed. But more generally, that is the lesson of the whole twentieth century, which we can sum up in this somewhat crude way:  affairs of state are much too serious to be left in the care of states. [As we know, this was precisely the call issued by Mao Zedong to Chinese youth at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution: “get mixed up in affairs of the state”; which, again, is not so easy. (simple?)]

On this point, then, we can maintain that African consciousness is ahead of the game, in the sense in which “any conscientious African”, as Lenin would have said, knows that nothing is to be done at the level of the state, since at this level the only alternative is corruption or death.

The whole question is to follow through with the consequences of this knowledge.

A first consequence is certainly not to expect anything from any position within state or international institutions. But we must go further. An essential point in situating oneself completely outside the existing corrupt states is to succeed in keeping one’s distance from elections. Elections, as we know, are a means of division and of crushing. The purpose of elections is to involve people in the naming of a subordinate and servile state personnel; at “best,” they announce a period of corruption (for very little, often for a simple t-shirt), of sterile division—since there is nothing really at stake in them—and thus of the paralysis of the peoples. At worst, they open up periods of confrontation that are all the more atrocious for being pointless.

Elections have been a dreadfully pernicious way of attacking the supporters of independence. And experience has shown that it is not easy to escape them. The most striking example, with the most disastrous consequences, is undoubtedly that of the elections organised in 1956 by the French government in Cameroon. Previously, the UPC (the party of Nyobe Moumie), the only serious and truly established party, had been prohibited. It, therefore, could not run its own candidates. What was to be done under these conditions? Accepting these falsified elections and relying on moderate spokespeople (like Soppo Priso), who will immediately play their own game and unburden themselves of the commitments they have made? Or boycotting the elections? It is because it found itself squeezed in this double bind — either submission and the risk of accepting the formation of a phony government, or a boycott which would have meant entering into antagonism — that the UPC, in fact, lost the initiative and found itself committed in spite of itself to a rash and defensive war. Same thing in the Congo, same thing, more recently, with Aristide’s party in Haiti. We can truly say that once real independent forces are constituted, elections are deployed by imperialists as a massive weapon of destruction, allowing them to take back the initiative and to hasten the antagonism according to a time-scheme determined by them.

So then, let us propose to agree on a line that we will call that of indifference to elections. The word “indifference” is essential, and we will take our starting point in proposing the watchword indifference in two registers. First, indifference that does not preclude sympathy toward the process of identification; second, antipathy but above all indifference towards the electoral processes, indifference here being the important point to apply and to win. Let it be understood that we are neither concerned with nor interested in elections. What defines this line is, in fact, an immediate stake, which is to suggest that we not talk about — consequently that we not become divided over — names, but only about contents, proposals, watchwords.

We will claim that this is enough to begin. To begin what? Investigating, working among people, the people. Must we pick up the question of independence where it was left off?  Must our goal be the construction of big states? What do you think of these proposals?  Here objections, stories, examples, enumerations of obstacles — in this case, we propose the discussion on the watchword indifference in its two registers — are going to proliferate. Perhaps they can take written form, that of a tract, which would then be presented for discussion. A meeting could be called. At that point new watchwords will emerge — small ones, intermediate ones, objectives putting this work of unification into action; a small work, certainly, patient, tiny. The initial theses will become increasingly refined, reshaped, ramified, depending upon places, circumstances, the battles that need to be won. The work of ants, invisible, bringing neither rewards nor fame, the work of the “old mole”, except that here the image is less one of digging in order to undermine the edifice than to construct. But construct what? Nothing other than an independence, for we will maintain that independence, as we have seen, is not an affair of state, cannot be entrusted to states. For whom and where, then, if not to the people? What is independence if not a politicised people capable of imposing its decisions? This is why we can say that independence, as the UPC saw and practised it in Cameroon, even without grasping its ultimate political consequences — this is why we must pick up where it left off. Independence is nothing other than “the proceedings”, the process of independence (in Bassa language, Ngaa Kunde: “You will know who you are”).

Thus, as Mao Zedong used to say, to investigate a problem is to solve it. Politics consists of proposing theses and of putting them to work and into discussion, of addressing the problem to be solved. And of continuing. Of beginning, and of continuing. Of following through the process, of holding on to the thread.

Who will do it? Anyone and everyone, can do it. Those who decide to do it.

Certainly, those who have a little more time have a particular responsibility (how are you going to do anything, a comrade used to say, when in the Congo, for example, you have to devote all your time and energy to finding whatever you can to eat today?); particular responsibility falls to those who know how to read, and can read for others; who know how to write and thus how to take notes and write them up; who can travel, etc. In other words, the well-known question of the intellectuals.

We can no longer hope, as Amilcar Cabral used to say, the petit-bourgeoisie will commit suicide as a class in order to put itself in the service of its people and of the peoples. More than ever today, the petit-bourgeoisie, the literate class, constitutes the bulk of the corrupted, the servile personnel.

Responsibility falls to those who are “one and another”: to singular subjects.

When the “mass connection,” the idea of “going to the people”, becomes itself a mass phenomenon, it means that something is going to happen. This is the 19th century Russia or, in a smaller and closer version, the movement of going to work in the factories in France just before 1968. So it is also something that already participates in movement, carrying with it the energy and the ambiguity of what makes movement possible and  interrupts itself in the exhaustion of its contradiction. This was often a beginning without any follow-up, because the predominant fantasy was that of “going there, but nothing after”, because in the last analysis what was really involved was a narcissistic project, because the theme of connection is a theme of movement, at once strong and ambiguous: this is an absolutely necessary theme, a sine qua non for beginning, but it is not a sufficient theme for politics.

The political theme, the militant one, is to begin and to continue, and then it is equality as the experience of the process and of contents. To put it differently, what is available to us today is a method. This method is properly speaking the heritage of Maoism, whose content is in no way reducible to the idea of “mass labor” — that is the requirement and the beginning; it is a method for continuing, in other words for trying out, through the rigour of the investigation and the realisation of its consequences by means of new proposals, new watchwords, new theses, that we can continue. (go on?)

(This text presents itself as a proposal for beginning and for continuing.)

Cécile Winter is a French political activist working in the northern suburb of Paris. The author of various programmatic and interventionist tracts and brochures on workers’ politics, she was a member of the French Maoist group, UCFML (now extinct), and then went on to play a prominent part in L’Organisation Politique. As somebody who continues to be an engaged militant, Africa and its colonisation are some of Winter’s major concerns. A doctor by profession, she hopes to elucidate the notions of life, genericity, conscience and decision in the works of Joseph Conrad.

STRUGGLE TO END WORK, NOT SAVE EDUCATION!

Rahul Gupta

Distributed as a pamphlet for Radical Notes’ meeting on December 12, 2015 in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The threat of scrapping the non-NET fellowships brought out many different reactions. (1) Those who plan to start MPhil/PhD programs in the future, of course felt themselves under threat — to fund their future research work, they would likely have to take more money from parents, or find more loans, or more outside jobs… (2) Others joined in solidarity, linking it with their own precarious conditions within and outside the university… (3) But for some, it was above all a case of ‘education under attack’.

Following the first and second reactions, conversations sprang up around the subject of a wage. It was argued that the work done by researchers was, after all, productive, so why should it not be paid for? These conversations represented an attempted political process, which starts by recognising the terms of our exploitation, and moves in the direction of its abolition. They thereby challenged the notion of education as a public good, to be paid for by a socially responsible government. Meanwhile, that notion was defended by the traditional rhetoric of ‘saving’ education from the attack of commodification.

As this week’s mobilisation against the WTO-GATS conference goes ahead, the dominant narrative goes along the lines of defending the university from the excesses of global capital, resisting privatization and preserving it as a public institution. But what really is it that we are being told to preserve? Surely not its autonomy from the market — that ship has sailed. The involvement of the university in the Indian labour market dates back at least to the requirements of the colonial administration under British rule. But as capitalism has developed, the nature of that involvement was such that even before liberalisation of the Indian economy, the university as we know it was specifically associated with secure professions — doctors, scientists, lawyers, professors. Yet things are hardly so secure now, with most graduates ending up in precarious jobs, such as copy-editors, IT engineers, research assistants and temporary teachers.

The university has never been free of the grip of the labour market which, at different times, requires different kinds of workers to be produced in what we can call ‘the university factory’. In this factory, a combination of university workers — students, teachers, karamcharis of various kinds — are all put to work. One product is knowledge, to be sold in the form of conferences, publications, etc. The other product is batch-after-batch of workers who file out of the university and into their places in the labour market. Their position in relation to other workers is the material result of the education they have undertaken in the university factory. It is important to note that education that way has a double character: on the one hand, it is a working condition, imposed on the student from start to finish; on the other, it is a commodity, consumed by the student in order to improve her standing in the labour market. In this sense, the ‘university factory’ is also a ‘university shop’.

It is imperative to rid our protest of any nostalgia for the era of state welfare. After all, what is the real difference, we must ask, between paying for our own education, and having it paid for by the state? For in both cases, as we have argued above, education remains a commodity. But let us examine the changing terms of its exchange.

The era when public funding of higher education was being increased was not an era of state benevolence. Instead, the state was increasing its direct investment in the training of a section of the working class, thereby fixing them at a particular place in the social division of labour. But this was no innocent operation of dividing up the skills to divide up the work. It was also a matter of economic and political segmentation. The training and disciplining of a section of workers (called “students”, “researchers”, “graduates”, “engineers” etc) also meant the fixing of their value as labour-power — i.e. the fixing of the level at which their work would be paid for in their jobs after studying — i.e. their wages.

In other words, capital was investing in universities in order to manage a social and technical division of labour whereby university-educated workers were granted a higher standard of living, in exchange for both their student work and the specialised salaried work they would go on to do after university.

But this was based on a lag between that part of the day in which the worker produced for capital and the part of the day in which he (re)produced himself as a worker. Between his production of commodities in the workplace, and his consumption of commodities at home. Between work and leisure. Today, this separation is fast disappearing, but again this is no accident. The proliferation of more and more machinery and technology, such as the internet, have led to change in nature of production-consumption, intimately tying the two together. The lack of a defined work day due to 24X7 infiltration of technology into our everyday collapses the difference between leisure time and production: workers have found themselves producing more and more surplus for capital, such that their wages are more and more minuscule next to their total productivity. This process has driven the measurement of their value as labour-power into a crisis. In effect, capital has found ways to extract surplus-value even at those moments when labour-power is being (re)produced.

How can we see this in the university? Whereas before, the student/researcher worked for the university in exchange for a grant, now she is being told to pay for the privilege of doing the same work. Capital can no longer settle for long-term gains — the gradual production of graduates as labour-power; it must demand immediate payment for the commodity which the student receives — education. The university factory and the university shop collapse into one another.

Neoliberalism is not simply an ideology that puts profit over people, or which replaces ‘social values’ with market prices. It is capital’s reaction to a crisis in the measurement of the value of labour-power. And yet it is not enough to say that this reaction enriches capital at the expense of the student/researcher. After all, economics find their concentrated expression in politics. The price tag which capital is now attaching to research work is above all a tool of segmentation. The income gap, between the tiny number of JRF scholars, and the rest, will deepen. And simultaneously researchers will be in fiercer competition, among themselves and with other workers, for part-time jobs inside/outside the university.

Capital, as it struggles to keep labour-power tied to the value relation, has been forced to reconfigure the social and technical division of labour, segmenting the working class in new ways. The question at this point is not how to force a retreat back to an older segmentation — this is nothing but the affirmation of received hierarchies. The question is how to turn defense into attack.

When we say that students and researchers are workers, we are not saying that we ‘want’ to be workers. And we are not trying to construct an identity under which all struggles can be united. We begin from the premise that as university workers, all our work is exploited, and in fact exploited differentially. From that perspective, the call to ‘save’ education (or to fight for the rights of one segment of workers to get Rs. 8000, another to get 12000 etc) is nothing more than a call to preserve segmentations and a submission to the law of value.

Why should we become negotiators? Why should we become the agents of neoliberalism, standing up to capital, declaring proudly, “You miscalculated my value. My value is in fact Rs. 8000”?! In contrast to this, the demand for a living wage for all is interesting. By demanding that all the work we do must be paid for — whether ‘skilled’ or ‘unskilled’, whether ‘manual’ or ‘mental’, whether ‘productive’ or ‘reproductive’ — not only are we announcing the inability of capital to fix our value, we are rejecting outright the neoliberal logic of more-and-more segmentations.

The actual breaking of segmentation of course cannot be achieved by one demand. It also cannot simply be performed through democratic processes… general body meetings… consensus-building efforts… The task is to build a process which sharpens antagonisms between all segments (between students, teachers, karamcharis, and within each of these groups too) with the aim of their destruction. This antagonistic process, which we can call a general assembly or council, can only be imagined if we reject the hopeless consensus-building practices we have got so used to.

LIVING WAGE FOR ALL!

The Deed of Words by Pothik Ghosh

  
What, if any, is the relation between literature and politics? This book seeks to demonstrate, from the standpoint of a political militant, that radical aesthetics and radical politics can only be thought in terms of compossibility, not relationality. It contends that literature should be thought, not in terms of the use of art for politics, but in terms of politics in art as its use. In the first instance, use is meant to connote instrumentalism, while in the second case use signifies Marx’s use-value as the determinate negation of the structure of exchange-relations by virtue of being the determinate excess of the means/ends duality.      

Written in a rigorous style, this work not only sheds new light on two major literary voices of the Subcontinent but also offers a singular articulation of the relationship of literature and politics by rethinking ontology itself. This is an excellent book. – Aniruddha Chowdhury, author of Post-deconstructive Subjectivity and History: Phenomenology, Critical Theory, and Postcolonial Thought (Brill, 2013)

Pothik Ghosh is one of the most dynamic thinkers on the left in India today. Drawing on a deep knowledge of literature in Hindi and Bengali, as well as an equally profound engagement with western Marxist theory, this book offers a model of rigorous and self-conscious thinking through verbal art to reveal its commensurability with the problems of political struggle. Jesse Ross Knutson, Assistant Professor of Sanskrit and Bengali, Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai’I at Manoa

 

Student-as-worker is no petty-bourgeois infantilism

Pothik Ghosh

1. Is one being ignorant of the history of university if one calls on students to politically organise themselves as workers in order to burn down the university-factory?

Of course, we all know the Enlightenment as a project of self-legislation is a dialectic between the practical-materialist subjectivity of struggle (the overcoming of historical determination in its own moment) and the contemplative-‘materialist’ human subject (or the self). What that means is the latter (the human subject as the Enlightenment) is an interruption of the former (the practical-materialist subjectivity of struggle as enlightenment) because of the reification of the limit that gets imposed on the subjectivity of struggle on account of its determinateness. In such circumstances, the only way to ensure the line does not shift to render this dialectic of enlightenment symmetrical and idealist, so that it sustains itself as an asymmetrical and materialist dialectic, is to brush the Enlightenment against its grain.

Now, in that context, if we were to historicise the modern university, and thereby grasp it as an embodiment of the Enlightenment as a credo of self-legislation, we would grasp the university as an embodiment of the dialectic of enlightenment. That would mean grasping the institutionality of the university as precisely the interruption of the practical-materialist subjectivity of struggle, which in being interrupted thus, due to the fetishisation of the limit imposed on it by its historically particular condition of determinateness, yielded the institutionality of the university. Seen in this fashion, the history of modern university as an embodiment of enlightenment is not a history of merely the university as institutionality, but the actuality of the asymmetrical dialectic between the practical-materialist subjectivity of struggle and the institutionality of the university, which is an interruption and hypostasis of that struggle.

In such circumstances, the modern university – from the vantage-point of critique of political economy, and a militant subjectivity underpinned by the mode of such critique – is a cell-form of capital in being an internally divided terrain of antagonism between the instrumentalising institutionality of the university, and the subjectivity of practical materialism that militates against the former from within it. But that is not all. The practical-materialist subjectivity, in militating against the institutionality of the university from within it, and thereby being constitutive of the modern university as an internally divided terrain, must also envisage itself as a determinate moment of actuality of the strategy of uninterrupted unraveling of capital as a moving contradiction. It is this kind of awareness of the history of university that arguably informs and marks the call to burn down the university-factory. That this is a call for determinate negation of capital is properly clarified when one asks students, as part of such a call, to engage in struggles within the university in a manner that the ground is set for the destruction of the interlinked and interdependent oppressions of which the university-factory is only one manifestation.

2. Does calling on students to politically organise themselves as workers serve to bolster the petty-bourgeois consciousness among students? Does such a call amount to a substitutionist move of making students into workers, thus not requiring them to actually organise in the working class?

In fact, just the opposite is the case. Calling on students to frame their politics in terms of their objective social condition of being workers, is to emphasise the situation of students within the overall socio-technical division of labour so that students envisage their oppositional politics, with regard to the specificity of their terrain, primarily in terms of a struggle against the overall segmentation of the working class. For, it is precisely in the segmentation of the working class (manifest in, as and through the overall socio-technical division or composition of labour), and the relations of exchange among many of those segments, that capital as the logic of value-relations is respectively operationalised and realised.

Here we would do well to dwell on two interrelated conceptual problems of what constitutes the objectivity from which the revolutionary subjectivity of the working class can stem. Many tend to argue, pace Marx, that the working-class leadership of a proletarian-revolutionary transformation of capitalist society can, and must, only come from those segments and sections of social labour that are productive – that is, those segments and sections of social labour that create value, and from which surplus value is concomitantly extracted to be realised as profit. It is in this context that we ought to pose the two interrelated conceptual problems more specifically. One, is academic work, in an overall sense, productive? And two, is the particular activity performed by students – (whether in classrooms or as research scholars), in the process of participating in this academic work, productive too?

In order to address these two interrelated problems somewhat adequately, we would do well to begin with Marx’s conceptions of productive and unproductive labour. While critically engaging with Adam Smith’s conceptions of the same in Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Marx writes: “Only labour which produces capital is productive labour. Commodities or money become capital, however, through being exchanged directly for labour-power, and exchanged only in order to be replaced by more labour than they themselves contain. For the use-value of labour-power to the capitalist as a capitalist does not consist in its actual use-value, in the usefulness of this particular concrete labour – that it is spinning labour, weaving labour, and so on. He is as little concerned with this as with the use-value of the product of this labour as such, since for the capitalist the product is a commodity (even before its first metamorphosis), not an article of consumption. What interests him in the commodity is that it has more exchange-value than he paid for it; and therefore the use-value of the labour is, for him, that he gets back a greater quantity of labour-time than he has paid out in the form of wages.”

Marx then goes on to further explicate his conceptions of productive and unproductive labour through his continued critical assimilation of Smith: “…this distinction between productive and unproductive labour has nothing to do either with the particular specialty of the labour or with the particular use-value in which this special labour is incorporated. In the one case, the labour is exchanged with capital, in the other with revenue. In the one case the labour is transformed into capital, and creates a profit for the capitalist; in the other case it is an expenditure, one of the articles in which revenue is consumed.”

With this Marxian distinction between productive and unproductive labour in mind let us now approach the problem of academic activity that goes on in institutions of post-secondary and higher education, and try and work out the character of the labour at stake in such activity.

The network of academic institutions – especially, at the post-secondary level – is constitutive of mutual competition among its constituent institutions in the market of academic training so that the demand for some outstrips the demand for others. This demand is basically of students-as-consumers for the commodity of academic knowledge, which they need to (re)produce their labour-power and/or enhance its particular mode of expenditure vis-à-vis the productive labour market. And this competition among academic institutions – particularly, in the sphere of higher education – is determined by the so-called quality of teaching and/or research services provided by those institutions relative to one another. Such quality is, therefore, determined by measuring the average degree of success of their pass-outsin the market for productive labour. In such circumstances, the criteria of evaluation of academic institutions in play are those of so-called quality of teaching, and other allied services that academic institutions (or shops) provide the student-as-consumer. This, first and foremost, depends on the quality of the academic staff and facilities that such an institution is able to provide its student-consumer. And the ascertainable measure of such quality is the number of patents producedand/or research papers published in prestigious academic journals by the faculty and research scholars of a particular institution. The so-called prestige of such patents, and research papers and other publications, is nothing but a euphemism for capitalist productivity.

And this productivity, as far as the production of such research work is concerned, is on two counts. First; a particular academic research product directly feeds into other branches of commodity-producing industry to enhance capital accumulation by increasing the extraction of (relative) surplus-value in those industrial branches. Or, second; products of particular kinds of academic research that, unlike in the first instance, do not feed directly into other branches of commodity-producing industry and are yet commodities measurable in terms of their productivity because their use-value components satisfy some or the other social want that, in this particular case, springs, pace Marx of Capital, Volume I, “from fancy”. A good example of the latter would be certain sorts of academic knowledge in the disciplines of humanities and other social sciences. Such academic commodities satisfy intellectual needs – social wants that spring from the mind – of its consumers but in doing that they socially reproduce those consumers as repositories of labour-power.

Such social (re)production of labour-power is not just about the (re)production of labour-power in its bare form, but also involves developing it through its (re)production so that it can be expended in modes other than that in which it is already expended so that its value expressed in price is enhanced. This, needless to say, renders the individuals embodying such (re)produced labour-power more competitive and thus more upwardly mobile in the overall socio-technical division, or composition, of labour. And the more such academic commodities – which do not feed directly into other branches of commodity-producing industry to enhance their productivity – are able to enhance the productivity of labour-power while reproducing it, the more productive they themselves are.

Marx quite clearly indicates that the work of teachers – which is an integral part of what we are here calling academic work – consists of the performing of productive labour because it participates in the (re)production of the vendible commodity of labour-power. He writes in Theories of Surplus Value, Part I: “The whole world of “commodities” can be divided into two great parts. First, labour-power, second, commodities as distinct from labour-power itself. As to the purchase of such services as those which train labour-power, maintain or modify it, etc., in a word, give it a specialised form or even only maintain it – thus for example the schoolmaster’s service, in so far as it is ‘industrially necessary’ or useful; the doctor’s service, in so far as he maintains health and so conserves the source of all values, labour-power itself – these are services which yield in return ‘a vendible commodity…’, namely labour-power itself, into whose costs of production or reproduction these services enter.”

So, insofar as the market of academic commodities is concerned, the productivity of academic research production on the two counts described above are both equally important. The first is important because by being directly productive (or not) with regard to other commodity markets it fetches more revenue (or not), and thus more profit (or not), from the industries of those other commodity-markets by exchanging academic research commodities (mostly intangible scientific and technical, and/or administrative and management know-how) for revenue in monetary terms. Consequently, the academic factories that produce such productive (or not) intangible research commodities for other industries are also productive (or not) on the second count with regard to the market for productive labour-power. That is because the more productive its research commodity is for other branches of commodity-producing industry, the more is the demand likely to be for such an academic factory among students-as-consumers looking to develop their labour-power in the process of reproducing it by consuming the commodity of academic knowledge produced there. That is because an academic institution, when it produces the intangible commodity of know-how for other branches of commodity-producing industry, does so only in the process of producing the commodity of academic knowledge for its student-consumers to consume it in order to socially reproduce themselves as repositories of productive labour-power. What this, therefore, means is that the production of the intangible commodity of know-how in academic institutions enhances the productivity of the labour-power of its students-consumers while socially reproducing them as the repositories of such labour-power.

As for the second type, its productivity as a commodity (or the lack of it thereof) is ascertainable directly in terms of the productivity of labour-power its consumption produces. Therefore, if one were to deal with the market of academic commodities strictly with regard to it satisfying the social wants of students-as-consumers, one ought to ascertain the productivity of such commodities in terms of the productivity of labour-power that is (re)produced in and through their consumption. For, the more productive the labour-power (re)produced in and through the consumption of the commodities of academic knowledge, the more shall be the demand among student-consumers for the academic institutions (read factories) that produce such commodities. Therefore, those academic institutions or factories that are, on this count, more in demand will fetch relatively more revenue and thus more profit, than those that are not. But such demand, as we have seen, is a direct function of academic productivity (in terms of both the quantity and quality of research produced, and the quality of teaching imparted). And this, in turn, implies increased extraction of surplus labour time by academic institutions from academic workers engaged in the production of academic knowledge (and/or the production of the academic commodity of know-how for other branches of the modern industry) – principally through intensification of academic work (relative extraction of surplus labour time), but also through an increase in the total labour time expended in such academic production.

Clearly, the profit earned by an academic shop by exchanging the commodity of academic knowledge it produces for a certain proportion of the revenue of the consuming public – even if one were to leave aside the profit it earns (or not) by exchanging the academic commodity of intangible know-how with other branches of modern industry for a part of the latter’s constant capital – is realisation of the surplus value (surplus labour time) extracted from its academic workers during the production of academic knowledge. That is so because the proportion of the revenue of the consuming public this academic factory is able to claim as its earning is a function of its demand among that public. And this demand is, in turn, a function of the productivity of its academic workers in the production of the commodity of academic knowledge. Clearly, academic institutions are not just shops in the academic market but are, before all else, factories in the academic industry. In fact, they are shops precisely because they are factories.

But can academic knowledge, strictly speaking, be considered a commodity? We would do well here to attend to what Marx has to say in Theories of Surplus Value, Part I: “…a part of the services in the strict sense which assume no objective form – which do not receive an existence as things separate from those performing the services, do not enter into a commodity as a component part of its value – may be bought with capital (by the immediate purchaser of the labour), may replace their own wages and yield a profit for him. In short, the production of these services can be in part subsumed under capital, just as a part of the labour which embodies itself in useful things in bought directly by revenue and is not subsumed under capitalist production.”

Therefore, academic work – to say nothing of the various kinds of non-academic work – occurring in institutions of post-secondary and higher education is productive and so is the labour employed in it. Clearly, members of the teaching faculty – fulfilling their function as classroom instructors and/or supervisors of academic research programmes – in every such academic institution (or factory) are academic workers whose labour is productive. And what Marx says in Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, with regard to a writer being a productive labourer would equally apply to an academic worker: “A writer is a productive labourer not in so far as he produces ideas, but in so far as he enriches the publisher who publishes his works, or if he is a wage-labourer for a capitalist.” All we need to do here is substitute the writer-publisher relationship with the relationship between the academic worker and the university or college he/she works for.

The question that stems from this, however, is the following: are students, who are an integral part of the activity that produces commodities of academic knowledge and/or know-how for other branches of modern industry, and which involves the performing of productive labour by teachers, also to be counted as productive academic workers? There is absolutely no doubt the activity of students – whether as pupils in the classroom or as research-scholars pursuing their doctoral degrees – is work. What a student does in participating as a student in the academic activity of teaching and research is work because such activity, first and foremost, is consumption-as-production, or, “consumptive production”, as Marx terms it in the ‘Introduction’ to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy that is part of the appendices to the text in question. The activity a student engages in, in the process of consuming academic knowledge, is work because this activity of consumption is integral to his/her social reproduction and thus the (re)production of the vendible commodity of labour-power, which resides in him/her, for the market of productive labour. And insofar as it is an activity that produces not just use-value for the immediate satisfaction of the student’s social want of knowledge that springs from his/her mind, but produces the vendible commodity of labour-power, such activity, following the portions of Marx’s Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, cited above, amounts to the performing of productive labour.

Of course, large masses of educated unemployed in our modern society show that not every individual who undergoes this period of studentship is able to successfully vend his/her commodity of labour-power in the productive-labour market. One could, as a result, infer the activity of consuming academic knowledge during studentship is not performing of productive labour for most as they will end up as educated unemployed or underemployed and their labour-power will not, in such circumstances, be productively employed. Such an inference would, however, be erroneous. The labour performed by productively unemployed labour-power to reproduce itself as that unemployed labour-power is only apparently unproductive and is systemically and thus essentially productive. That is so because the unemployed and the underemployed in reproducing themselves as the “relative surplus- population” or the “industrial reserve army” (Marx, in Capital, Volume I) work to regiment the productively employed labour-power and increase the latter’s productivity, thereby leading to a concomitant increase in the extraction of surplus value and capital accumulation. This is what renders the apparently unproductive labour of the unemployed and underemployed reproducing themselves essentially and systemically productive.

For that, however, we must grasp the labour that is unproductive in an immediate sense in terms of how that unproductive functionality is productively articulated by the structured totality of social labour within which it is constitutively situated. That is precisely what Marx does while explicating his concept of the “industrial reserve army” in Capital, Volume I. He writes: “If the means of production, as they increase in extent and effective power, become to a less extent means of employment of labourers, this state of things is again modified by the fact that in proportion as the productiveness of labour increases, capital increases its supply of labour more quickly than its demand for labourers. The over-work of the employed part of the working-class swells the ranks of the reserve, whilst conversely the greater pressure that the latter by its competition exerts on the former, forces these to submit to over-work and to subjugation under the dictates of capital. The condemnation of one part of the working-class to enforced idleness by the over-work of the other part, and the converse, becomes a means of enriching the individual capitalists, and accelerates at the same time the production of the industrial reserve army on a scale corresponding with the advance of social accumulation.”

Let us, however, set aside the issue of (re)production of labour-power as productive labour and try and see how the participation of students in academic activity is, even in its immediate specificity, work; and performing of productive labour to boot. In his/her activity of consuming the commodity of academic knowledge – whether as a pupil in the classroom, or as a researcher pursuing his/her doctoral degree – a student interacts with the teacher. And what he/she does as a student as part of such interaction is, even in its immediate sense, work. It is work because his/her activity of consuming the commodity of academic knowledge is for the teacher, with whom he/she interacts in the process, a use-value. The student’s activity of consuming the commodity of academic knowledge in interaction with his/her teacher is a use-value for the latter because such activity of the student is, in turn, immediately consumed by the teacher in question to socially reproduce himself/herself as the individual teacher he/she is. That, following Marx, is capital as the dialectic of “consumptive production” and “productive consumption” in its bare abstraction.

But that is not all. The commodity of academic knowledge – whose productivity underpins the level of demand for the academic factory that produces it among its potential student-consumers and which, therefore, enables it to earn more revenue and thus profit than its other competitors in the academic market – is produced in the process of such teacher-student interaction. The same also holds true for the academic production of the commodity of know-how for other branches of modern industry, as and when it happens. Thus, whether or not the contribution made by the activity of research students in their interaction with their teacher-supervisors to the production of those academic commodities is openly acknowledged, militants committed to radical working-class politics cannot afford to overlook their indispensable productive role in the production of those commodities. That is something clearly there for all to see, provided they are willing to make the effort to look through, and beyond, the ideological smokescreen created by the valorisation of individuated claims to academic research products. The productive labour of students in academic work is, however, not merely restricted to research scholars pursuing doctoral degrees. Even students, in and through their interaction with teachers as classroom pupils enable teachers not only to expand their pedagogic horizons as classroom instructors but also often push their overall academic thinking that may then enhance the productivity of their contribution to research productions. Does that then not render the labour of consumptive production performed by students, even in classrooms, doubly productive?

Hence, teachers alone are not academic workers performing productive labour in various academic factories, just because they are formally waged. Even students, in their unwaged – and, worse, fee-paying – condition perform productive labour by way of their participation in what goes on under the name of academic activity. In such circumstances, the hierarchy of the teacher-student relationship in those institutions is nothing but the differential relationship between two segments of social labour in the academic factory. This hierarchical relationship between students and teachers is, in other words, the instantiation of the overall capitalist sociality of socio-technical division of labour in the specific realm of academic production.

Therefore, calling on students to frame their politics in terms of their objective condition of being workers – which is to call on students to grasp the specificity of their social existence as students in terms of a moment in the operation of the chain of social labour (or what Marx described as “collective worker”) – is to imply that the correct strategic logic of radical antagonism vis-à-vis capital is as much about struggles against segmentation within the unity of the working class as it’s about the unity of diverse segments of the working class in its struggle against the institutional congealments of capitalist class power that apparently lie outside the class in its unity. More pertinently, calling on students to base their particular politics on the worker-condition of their social being is to clearly imply that different segments of the working class can come together to actually emerge as an antagonistic working-class subjectivity only through a process of struggle in unity against the segmentations that lie at the heart of this phenomenon of working-class unity.

Therefore, to call on students to politically organise themselves as workers is to call on them to envisage their terrain-specific struggles in a way that those struggles begin constellating with the specific struggles of other (identitarianised) segments of the working class – segments that are systemically identified as various types and kinds of workers that in their situation within the system stand differentiated from the identity of students as a community. [Given our neoliberal conjuncture, wherein the division between the cognitive and the manual (or the immaterial and the material) stands heavily precarised at different levels of its segmental operations, calling on students to base their politics on their objective condition of being workers is especially crucial.]

And if this call is not an instance of requiring students to actually organise in the working class, then one doesn’t know what else is? For, if this is not what is meant by students organising themselves in the working class, then the only other way one can think of is for students to seek and strive to go to the working class, as if it is something that lies outside them, in order to organise it. Now that, as far as one can see, would not be a case of students organising themselves in the working class but one of students organising the working class after coming to it from some absolute outside or Archimedean point. It is, therefore, the latter, not the former, that amounts to the deployment of the strategic conception of the vanguard in a classical substitutionist manner.

Of course, the constellating mode of having students organise in the working class would, without doubt, require the formation of a militant subjectivity that seeks to intervene in an embodied form in the objective terrains of labour-capital conflict not necessarily organic to the specificity of the concrete situation of its own embodied formation. That said, such embodied militant subjectivity – while making its radicalising interventions in objective terrains of labour-capital conflict different from the one where it was formed – must always reflexively demonstrate in its practice the organic specificity of its own formation as an embodied militant subjectivity.

In other words, the embodied militant subjectivity should inhabit the working class in the diversity of its segmental struggles while demonstrating to those respective class segments the limit imposed on the capital-unravelling impulse of their struggles by the historical particularities of their determinate condition so that those different segments of the class constellate their respective struggles/self-activities with one another and emerge, through such self-organising, into a subject and force of radical working-class politics. Now, is that not a modality of thinking and envisioning the militant subjectivity that is fundamentally distinct from the classical substitutionist modality in which it is usually envisaged? For, is not the substitutionist modality of envisaging the militant subjectivity all about aggregatively bringing together different segments of the working class into an organisation that is already given as a form – which is nothing but the embodiment of the so-called militant subjectivity? Is not substitutionism all about having this embodied form of subjectivity of the working class act on behalf of the class while the class itself supposedly legitimises this operation of its embodied subjectivity by passively following it?

Radical Notes 8: Notes from Tomorrow by Werner Bonefeld (April 2015)

  

The AAP Crisis: Left and Precarious Politics

Pothik Ghosh and Pratyush Chandra

Self-declared radical leftists of this country appear to have mastered rather well the art of making a virtue out of necessity. Unfortunately, that is just about the only art – or, for that matter, science – they are in command of. When earlier this year the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the Delhi assembly elections, many among those phrase-mongering ‘radical leftists’ had seen in this electoral victory a crucial tactical opening for the strategic advance of radical democracy, if not also for working-class politics. They saw the apparently mind-boggling political emergence of the AAP in those terms not because they thought the AAP was the new left, albeit a few of them did also claim as much. Rather, they had imagined that their versions of transformative politics – radical democracy for some, working-class revolutionism for others – could ride to the winning-post on the back of the configuration of social forces that underlay AAP’s overwhelming electoral showing, even as the AAP would itself be exposed in the process as a thoroughly inadequate representative of the social aspirations and churn it had fanned and mobilised. Some among them had asserted, with the bluster characteristic of revolutionary phrase-mongers, that bidding goodbye to AAP by way of welcoming it would be a piece of cake. Their assumption having been that the social-corporatist populism the AAP represented would unravel due to the irreconcilably conflicted social forces that comprised it, which would, for them, result in the emergence of radical transformative politics, pretty much on its own. What they failed to grasp was that the populist roadblock the AAP embodies vis-à-vis a transformative political project has little to do with that political party per se. Rather, the populism the AAP embodies is a particular configuration of social forces, and a particular structure and imaginary of social practice, at the grassroots that has risen up to the political surface to congeal in the shape of a party such as the AAP. Unless subjective interventions occur at the level of that social configuration in order to accentuate the contradictions that are constitutive of it, the social corporatist populist politics, of which AAP is merely a symptom, cannot be got rid of. In fact, in the absence of such subjective intervention, this structure of social corporatist populism will continue to perpetuate itself by merely changing the political shape, form and name of its political representatives.        

I

Clearly, there is no royal road to socio-political transformation. The fundamental social changes constitutive of such politics cannot be brought about by merely relying on the troubles that plague the political camp of populism. Now that Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the AAP government in Delhi, has brutally unleashed the Delhi police on a delegation/rally of contract workers and students, even as the AAP itself degenerates into a faction fight among its different authoritarian satraps, Radical Notes would wish to forcefully remind our ‘radical leftists’ what we have insisted all along. This reminder is necessitated by the holier-than-thou stance that our ‘radical leftists’ – even those among them who were more unqualified than others in their affirmation of the ascendancy of the AAP – are currently striking vis-à-vis the AAP in what they perceive to be its hour of trouble. This holier-than-thou attitude continues to perpetuate the politics of exposure that had been integral to the earlier ‘radical leftist’ strategy of riding on AAP’s popularity only to best it. That, needless to say, does little to advance the cause of radical social transformation, let alone working-class politics, because it is, subjectively speaking, little more than liberal petty-bourgeois opportunism and competitiveness that is as much caught in the paradigm of populist politics as the political formation it seeks to outdo. After all, counter-hegemony, which radical working-class politics is supposed to be an articulation of, is not about out-competing the prevailing hegemon to take its place. It is, instead, the affirmation of a new mode of associational socialisation that antagonistically articulates the destruction of the structure of competitive, or exchange-based, socialisation that engenders the hegemonic modality in the first place.

Some of our ‘radical leftists’ who imagined, one way or another, that the AAP’s rise in Delhi – driven as it was by large sections of the urban poor and the precariat –would temporarily halt what they claim to be the BJP’s fascist juggernaut in its tracks, and give some breathing space to the working class and other radical democratic subjects to organise themselves politically, must now realise that nothing like that was ever on the cards. It could not have been. It cannot ever be. Contrary to such castles in the air, Radical Notes, and its extended fraternity, has always insisted that such hopes were thoroughly misplaced. 

Far from being a tactical and temporary halting of the BJP-RSS, the electoral ascendancy of the AAP should be seen, as we have argued right from the very beginning, as the continuance of the process of counter-revolutionary (subjective) mobilisation of objective revolutionary possibilities. A move that was inaugurated last year by the AAP’s brief stint in power in Delhi, and Narendra Modi’s ascendancy in the parliamentary elections soon after. In fact, this counter-revolutionary turn, if one goes out on a limb, began further back in 2009 with the ascent to power of the so-called UPA-2 in the 15th Lok Sabha elections. Counter-revolution is nothing but mystified revolution. That was precisely the reason why Ernest Mandel had once said, and we paraphrase: either revolution will disarm counter-revolution or counter-revolution will disarm revolution. That has always, more or less, been the case in moments of accumulation and concentration of crisis in the epoch of capital. In that context, the Kejriwal versus Modi contest has been no more than a moment in a protracted sequence of reshuffling of various social-interest groups that comprise the fascistically reactionary and sectarian alliance at the grassroots constitutive of the ongoing process of the globalising neoliberal counter-revolution. Therefore, what we will possibly see in terms of expressions of reactionary fascistic sectarianism – both socio-cultural and socio-economic – at the grassroots is only a shift in emphasis in its politico-ideological register. The brutal lathicharge, and firing of tear-gas shells, on the rally/delegation of contract workers and students, reportedly ordered by Kejriwal, merely symptomatises the continuance of the generalised state of exception that Modi as prime minister signifies with regard to the rest of the country.

II

Therefore, what the AAP’s electoral victory, and the BJP’s rout, in Delhi have delivered is simply yet another political expression of what goes on in capitalism as a network of different capitals. And that is, mutual competition among different capitals even as they cooperate, amid and through their unflinching game of politico-economic oneupmanship, to keep the working class at bay. The so-called new political culture, which various spokespersons of the AAP ceaselessly, breathlessly and self-righteously promised on sundry television channels in the immediate wake of their electoral victory two months ago, is now clearly there for all to see. However, what needs to be grasped, as far as the working-class movement in this country is concerned, is what this ‘new’ political culture amounts to in terms of the concrete structuring of classes. This structuring must be understood in terms of an alliance between the petty-bourgeoisie and a section of the bourgeoisie of Delhi merrily cohabiting with a dominant section of the bourgeoisie and its petty-bourgeois and lumpen-proletarian footsoldiers while trying hard to improve its position in the game of bargaining and negotiation with the latter. Our ‘radical leftists’, had they dropped the blinkers of abstract, parliamentary secularism in order to look at a phenomenon such as the AAP in terms of its materiality, would have realised right at the very beginning of this charade that this ‘new’ political culture could hardly have been otherwise.

In this not-so strange situation that is capital, all that we can expect is cooperation between various sections that are constitutive of it. (Here we ought to understand capital as the structure of fetishised social relations, not as an entity or stock.) This cooperation will be geared towards further stepping up socio-economic and cultural regimentation of social labour, what with those sections taking turns to politically instrumentalise the working class, ideologically reinforce and intensify its internal segmentation and recruit its disaffection to bolster their respective positions vis-à-vis one another in the game of mutual competition, bargaining and negotiation. And that would be regardless of whether or not the AAP, or for that matter even the BJP, is around and/or in power. The former – that is, the alliance between Delhi’s reactionary petty-bourgeoisie and a section of its bourgeoisie – will recruit the growing disaffection of the working class of the city-state to give its bargaining and negotiation with the dominant section of the bourgeoisie more heft. In fact, that is precisely what was accomplished by way of the electoral victory of the AAP. On the other hand, the dominant bourgeoisie, and its petty-bourgeois quislings, will instrumentalise and use the disaffection of the working class, as and when they get the opportunity – something that will surely be amply provided by policy-decisions of the Delhi state government – to retrieve those portions of their ground that are likely to be eroded, thanks to the bargain the former will drive.

That this so-called new political culture will be all about cohabitation of different segments of capital, and class collaborationist instrumentalism, is fairly clear to both the BJP and the AAP. After all, it is not for nothing that the AAP, soon after the election results, categorically stated that Delhi, which had so far been the city of the rich would now be, not a city of the poor, but a city of both the rich and the poor. The BJP, on the other hand, made its share of overtures on that score by unambiguously and repeatedly lending sanctity to the formulation: “Modi as PM, Kejriwal as CM”.

III

Clearly, there is no alternative other than a concerted subjective intervention to construct an independent and new working-class movement against capital as the logic of exploitation and oppression. However, in order to accomplish that we must learn the very important lesson that the triumphal emergence of the AAP two months ago (preceded by BJP’s victory almost a year back), and the concomitant marginalisation and decline of the traditional social democratic left (including both the official left and the self-declared revolutionary left), has to offer. First of all, it is quite apparent that the capitalist need for a new social compact that addresses the contemporary political economic crisis in which states find themselves is not satisfied by the social democratic political techniques fashioned during the Fordist regime of accumulation to manage asymmetries in commodity and labour markets by demand management. It is not for nothing that class-collaborationist and social-corporatist reformism – as a response to the current terminal crisis of capital in its growing failure to stabilise its organic composition – is increasingly being articulated in terms of minimising and reordering the institutions and norms to ensure the freedom and fairness supposedly intrinsic to the endless, ruthless and volatile expansion of commodity and social exchange. 

In order to visualise this conjuncture as a ground for the regeneration of a real class movement of workers, not just as the existential plight of the diverse strata of workers, this (de)regulatory structural adjustment must be grasped in terms of an attempt to resolve the crisis of reproducing capital as social power, of sustaining capital’s ability to subsume labour and valorise its autonomy to facilitate recomposition – of labour to recompose capital. Only this will enable us to understand how the rise of the AAP, and the growing irrelevance of the traditional left in all its (reformist) variety, reveals a qualitatively new order of socio-technical recomposition of labour. One that is constitutive of the increasing levelling of the ground between manual labour and cognitive labour, and the rise of affective labour. Every aspect of societal life, whether it’s in the sphere of production, nonproduction or reproduction, is networked in continuous and overlapping chains of real subsumption, rendering their discreteness precarious. 

The explanation offered by autonomist Christian Marazzi, in his Capital and Affects, is pertinent here: 

“Post-Fordist ‘total quality’ does not stop the production of goods and services, but includes the sphere of distribution, sales consumption, and reproduction. This is why communicative-relational work, which normally is defined as activities of care or of general services to the person, acquires a universal value. In post-Fordism, work has taken on a servile connotation because communicative-relational action, although increasingly relevant in economic terms, is not correctly recognised. Thus, work becomes an opportunity to impose personal hierarchies where one worker has authority over the other, and becomes the terrain where attitudes, feelings and dispositions such as cynicism, fear or denunciation can grow and fester. But the servile connotation of work is not founded on the distinction between productive and nonproductive work, but on the absence of economic compensation for communicative-relational activities.”

The political response of capital to the disaffection this has produced is what Marazzi terms “Berlusconism”. He writes: 

“The post-Fordist regime entails the crisis of the classical institutions typical of representative democracies, and even more so, of the parliamentary system. This crisis originates in the overlap between productive and communicative action, which has fractured the classic separation between economical and political spheres while con-fusing instrumental and politico-communicative activities. This has unleashed social and political processes that are not understandable through classical political rationality.

“The first consequence of this crisis is the proliferation of parties and movements that present themselves as representing the collectivity on the basis of limited interests and ‘themes,’ as can be seen in the increasing difficulty on the part of the Executive and Legislative powers to create a consensus around issues of common interest. What we call Berlusconism is not merely an Italian phenomenon due to an ‘informal galope,’ as Paul Virilio defined it. It is simply the earliest expression of an interest-based political action within the communicative sector. Berlusconism is not a ‘television anomaly’ that can be liquidated with some kind of antitrust law, but is in fact an experiment in post-Fordist governance. In it, we find the explosive synthesis of all the traits of the historical trend unleashed by the post-Fordist shift.”

The decline of the left with its more and more reliance on episodic spectacles and the proliferation of big and small populist formations with their cacophonous post-ideological theatrics, all are symptoms of precarious politics that post-Fordism has perpetuated. A reliance on the empty names like “common man” is also an attempt to create a consensus when there isn’t any. This scenario is in fact the politico-comical representation of capital’s “vampire-like” pre-dawn desperation to locate and subsume living labour.

IV

What is the exact correlation between the current neoliberal, post-Fordist conjuncture, characterised by the increasing footlooseness of social labour, and the emergence of a force such as the AAP to the political centre-stage? Obviously, this correlation is not a directly correspondent one. Its exact digits can be laid bare only through a protracted process of militant workers’ inquiry and workers’ self-inquiry. However, what such footlooseness, and more precisely precarity, has definitely resulted in is the growing political redundancy of the traditional, leftist and unionist forms of organising the working class. And that is because the fundamental change at the level of the organic composition of capital, which is reflected by this growing precarity of social labour, has been constitutive of a new terrain of class struggle. One to which the traditional forms of organising the working class as an independent political force have proved to be patently inadequate. It is on this terrain that a force such as the AAP has emerged, of course only to re-commit the disaffection of the recomposed social labour to capital and its state. The much talked-about support lent to the AAP by Delhi autodrivers, who ought to be seen as a textbook illustration of footloose, precarious mass-workers, is a case in point.

Workers’ inquiry being jointly conducted by University Worker, ‘Zero History’ and ‘Radical Notes’ in the Wazirpur industrial area of Delhi has, for instance, been indicating that among the footloose, same-skilled workers circulating amid various trades/jobs in the steel sector (and across it to other sectors), trade- and factory-based organising is fast turning out to be ephemeral and ineffective in political terms. What is being posited, instead, is the need to figure out, and construct, a new political composition of the class at the level of the industrial area, which as far as Wazirpur is concerned is also a working-class residential neighbourhood. The question, insofar as the working class is concerned, is now no longer merely about the sphere of production in the traditional sense. Rather, it is about how the sphere of consumption – constitutive of the domain of circulation of value, and the realm of social reproduction as the point of production of labour-power – is becoming more and more clearly a domain of production in its own right. And this is not only because social reproduction is a moment of work to produce labour-power, which is an indispensable ingredient in the production and extraction of surplus-value that Marx’s circuit of capital tangentially alludes to. But it is now also a site of direct extraction of surplus-value, through socialisation/ communicative-relationality being rendered productive work. Here once again the mass-worker category can usefully illuminate things.

For example, a person who is a worker today at a steel-rolling mill – hot or cold – is tomorrow a handcart-pusher, a trolley-rickshawpuller or a hawker selling savouries and sweets in the area by leveraging his communicative-relational capacities of socialisation as a worker-inhabitant of that area. How can traditional ‘leftist’ forms of trade-, skill- and factory-based organising of the working class politically address and articulate the questions of such a mass-worker and a social worker? In such circumstances, parties and movements such as the AAP, and even to some extent the BJP, come up as parties, movements or groups that seek to “represent the collectivity on the basis of limited interests and ‘themes’” such as corruption, etc. Considering that a political composition, commensurate with this new socio-technical composition of the working class has not yet emerged in its generalised actuality, the politics of the AAP, and to some extent the BJP, is all about management of the anarchy (by capital, for capital) that this new socio-technical composition of labour amounts to. In fact, we can, dialectically speaking, see the non-emergence of this new (revolutionary) political composition of the working class as both the cause and consequence of the emergence of forces such as the AAP, and even the sangh parivar’s grassroots organisations, in such sectors of society. But the good news is this anarchy, precisely because it is being produced by capital, can now, therefore, no longer be effectively rationalised, and controlled, by it. Irrational and oppressive social violence, and open coercion by the repressive state apparatuses will continue to intensify more and more, further exposing the illegitimacy of the political project of late capitalism. Neoliberalism is nothing but this political project.

In such a situation, the political management of this crisis of capital, which is what the emergence of the AAP at the state level and the BJP at the national level amounts to, will turn out be rather transient. And sooner rather than later, class-based fissures lurking in the instrumentalist, social-corporatist ‘solidarity’ of the AAP are likely to erupt into the open. And that is the opportunity militants committed to revolutionary working-class politics need to prepare themselves for. 

Such preparation, it ought to be stated here, will require, for now, a lot of patient, painstaking, anonymous and invisible work that will have little, if any, resemblance to the kind of politics of spectacle that much of our ‘radical leftists’ are addicted to. To think that the eruption of such contradictions into the open will automatically impel those contradictions to take the form of a radical transformative movement that then falls into the lap of our ‘radical leftists’, who meanwhile merely need to keep themselves busy with their politics of spectacle, is a politically dangerous assumption to make. Such an assumption will, contrary to the beliefs and dogmas of our ‘radical leftists’ currently busy indulging single-mindedly in spectacular forms of politics of exposure, lead working-class politics down the path of unmitigated damnation. For, the opening up of those fissures within the current configuration of social corporatism can, in such circumstances, only be instrumentalised yet again by one or another section of capital to grind its own axe. That, needless to say, will mean the counter-revolutionary vicious cycle continues to repeat itself through its progressive deepening.

Therefore, unless the phenomenon of radical recomposition of both production and labour processes – which has been about increasing disintegration of earlier Fordist assembly lines, decentralisation of work and increasing levels of footlooseness of labour that has brought into being the new mass-worker and social-worker – is recognised, and militant investigations into concrete forms of those new compositions of social labour are launched to ascertain what concrete political composition can be extracted and constructed from within and against them, the working class is condemned to alternate between being the slave of Beelzebub and the servant of Satan. There is simply no alternative for the proponents of working-class politics than to hit the ground running.

We Won’t Give In! We Won’t Give UP!

Abhinav Sinha

(Editor, ‘Mazdoor Bigul‘ and ‘Muktrikami Chhatron-yuvaon ka Aahwan’, Writer of blog ‘Red Polemique’ and Research Scholar in History Department, Delhi University)


On 25th March, we witnessed one of the most brutal, probably the most brutal lathi charge on workers in Delhi in at least last 2 decades. It is noteworthy that this lathi-charge was ordered directly by Arvind Kejriwal, as some Police personnel casually mentioned when I was in Police custody. It might seem surprising to some people becauseformally the Delhi Police is under the Central Government. However, when I asked this question to the Police, they told me that for day-to-day law and order maintenance, the Police is obliged to follow the directives from the CM of Delhi, unless and until it is in contradiction with some directive/order of the Central Government. The AAP government is now in a fix as it cannot fulfill the promises made to the working class of Delhi. And the working class of Delhi has been refusing to forget the promises made to them by the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal. As is known, on February 17, the students of School of Open Learning, DU went in sizeable numbers to submit their memorandum to the CM. Again, on March 3, hundreds of DMRC contract employees went to submit their memorandum to the Kejriwal government and were lathi-charged.


From the beginning of this month, various workers’ organizations, unions, women’s organizations, student and youth organizations have been running ‘WADA NA TODO ABHIYAN’, which aims at reminding and then compelling the Kejriwal government to fulfill its promises to the working poor of Delhi, like the abolition of contract system in perennial nature of work, free education till class 12th, filling 55 thousand vacant seats in the Delhi government, recruiting 17 thousand new teachers, making all the housekeepers and contract teachers as permanent, etc. The Kejriwal government and the Police administration had already been intimated about the demonstration of 25th March and the Police had not given any prior prohibitory order. However, what happened on 25th March was horrendous and as I was part of the activists who were attacked, threatened and arrested by the Police, I would like to give an account of what happened on March 25, why did scores of workers, women and students go to the Delhi Secretariat, what treatment was meted out to them and how the majority of the mainstream media channels and newspapers conveniently blacked out the brutal repression of wokers, women and students.


Why did thousands of workers, women and student go to the Delhi Secretariat on March 25?

As mentioned earlier, a number of workers’ organizations have been running ‘Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’ for last one month in Delhi to remind Arvind Kejriwal of the promises he and his party made to the working people of Delhi. These promises include the abolition of contract system on work of perennial nature; filling 55 thousand vacant posts of Delhi government; recruiting 17 thousand new teachers and making the contract teachers as permanent; making all contract safai karamcharis as permanent; making school education till 12th free; these are the promises that could be fulfilled immediately. We know it will take time to build houses for all jhuggi dwellers; however, a  roadmap must be presented before the people of Delhi. Similarly, we know that providing 20 new colleges will take time; however, Mr. Kejriwal hadtold the media that some individuals have donated land for two colleges and he must tell now where are those lands and when is the state government going to start the construction of these colleges. It is not as if Kejriwal government did not fulfill any of its promises. It fulfilled the promises made to the factory owners and shop-keepers of Delhi immediately! And what did he do for the contract workers? Nothing, except a sham interim order pertaining to contract workers in the government departments only, which ordered that no contract employee in government departments/corporations shall be terminated till further notice. However, newspapers reported a few days later that dozens of home guards were terminated just a few days after this sham interim orderThat simply means that the interim order was just a facade to fool the contract workers in the government departments and people of Delhi at largeThese are the factors that led to a suspicion among the working people of Delhi and consequently various trade unions, women’s organizations, student organizations began to think about a campaign to remind Mr. Kejriwal of the promises made to the common working people of Delhi. 


Consequently, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA) was initiated on March 3 with a demonstration of contract workers of DMRC. At the same day, the Kejriwal government was informally informed about the demonstration of 25th March and later an official intimation was given to the Police administration. The Police did not give any prior prohibitory notice to the organizers before the demonstration. However, as soon as the demonstrators reached Kisan Ghat, they were arbitrarily told to leave! The police refused to allow them to submit their memorandum and charter of demands to the Government, which is their fundamental constitutional right, i.e., the right to be heard, the right to peacefully assemble and the right to express.


What really happened on March 25?

Around 1:30 PM, nearly 3500 people had gathered at the Kisan Ghat. RAF and CRPF had been deployed there right since the morning. Consequently, the workers moved peacefully towards the Delhi Secretariat in the form of a procession. They were stopped at the first barricade and the police told them to go away. The protesters insisted on seeing a government representative and submit their memorandum to them. The protesters tried to move towards the Delhi Secretariat. Then the police without any further warning started a brutal lathi-charge and began to chase protesters. Some women workers and activists were seriously injured in this first round of lathi-charge and hundreds of workers were chased away by the Police. However, a large number of workers stayed at the barricade and started their ‘Mazdoor Satyagraha’ on the spot. Though, the police succeeded to chase away a number of workers, yet, almost 1300 workers were still there and they continued their satyagraha. Almost 700 contract teachers were at the other side of the Secretariat, who had come to join this demonstration. They were not allowed by the police to join the demonstration. So they continued their protest at the other side of the Secretariat. The organizers repeatedly asked the Police officers to let them go to the Secretariat and submit their memorandum. The Police flatly refused. Then the organizers reminded the police that it is their constitutional right to give their memorandum and the government is obliged to accept the memorandum. Still, the police did not let the protesters go the Secretariat and submit their memorandum. The workers after waiting for almost one and a half hours gave an ultimatum of half an hour to the Police before trying to move towards the Secretariat again.When the Police did not let them go to the Secretariat to submit their memorandum after half an hour, then the police again started lathi charge. This time it was even more brutal. 


I have been active in the student movement and working class movement of Delhi for last 16 years and I can certainly say that I have not seen such Police brutality in Delhi against any demonstration. Women workers and activists and the workers’ leaders were especially targetted. Male police personnel brutally beat up women, dragged them on streets by their hair, tore their clothes, molested them and harrassed them. It was absolutely shocking to see how several police personnel were holding and beating women workers and activists. Some of the women activists were beaten till the lathis broke or the women fainted. Tear gas was used on the workers. Hundreds of workers lied down on the ground to continue their peaceful Satyagraha. However, the police continued to brutally beat them. Finally, the workers tried to continue their protest at the Rajghat but the Police and RAF continued to hunt them down. 18 activists and workers were arrested by the Police including me. One of my comrades, Anant, a young activist was beaten brutally even after being taken in custody in front of me. The police abused him in the worst way. Similar treatment was meted out to other activists and workers in custody. Almost all of the persons taken in custody were injured and some of them were seriously injured. 


Four women activists Shivani, Varsha, Varuni and Vrishali were taken into custody and particularly targeted. Vrishali’s fingers got fractured, Varsha’s legs were brutally attacked, Shivani was attacked repeatedly on the back by several police personnel and also sustained a head injury and Varuni also was brutally beaten up.. The extent of injuries can be gauged by the fact that Varuni and Varsha had to be admitted again to the Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital on 27th March, when they were out on bail. Women activists were constantly abused by the police. The police personnel hurled sexist remarks and abuses on the women activists, that I cannot mention here. It was part of the old conventional strategy of the Police to crush the dignity of the activists and protesters. 


The 13 arrested male activists were also injured and five of them were seriously injured. However, they were made to wait, two of them bleeding, for more than 8 hours for medical treatment. During our stay in the Police station, we were repeatedly told by a number of police personnel that the order to lathi charge the protesters was given directly from the CM’s officeAlso, the intent of the Police was clear from the very beginning: to brutalize the protestors. They told us that the plan was to teach a lesson. 


The next day four women comrades were granted bail and 13 male activists were granted conditional bail for 2 days. The IP Estate Police station was asked to verify the addresses of the sureties. The police was demanding 14 days police custody for the arrested activists. The intent of the administration is clear: brutalizing the activists again. The police is constantly trying to arrest us again and slap false charges on us. As is the convention of the police administration now, anyone who raises their voice against the injustice perpetrated by the system is branded as “Maoists”, “Naxalite”, “terrorists”, etc. In this case too, this intent of the police is clear. This only shows how Indian capitalist democracy functions. Especially in the times of political and economic crisis, it can only survive by stifling any kind of resistance from the working people of India against the naked brutality of the system. The events of 25th March stands witness to this fact.


What happens next?

It is a common mistake of the rulers to assume that brutalizing the struggling women, workers and students would silence the voices of dissent. They commit this mistake again and again. Here too, they are grossly mistaked. The police brutality of March 25 was an attempt of the Kejriwal Government to convey a message to the working poor of Delhi and this message was simply this: if you raise your voice against the betrayal of the Kejriwal Government against the poor of Delhi, you will be dealt with in the most brutal fashion. Our wounds are still fresh, many of us have swollen legs, fractured fingers, head injuries and with every move we can feel the pain. However, our resolve to fight against this injustice andexpose the slimy fraud that is Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP has become even stronger


The trade unions, women organizations and student organizations and thousands of workers have refused to give up. They have refused to give in. They are already running exposure campaigns around Delhi, though most of their activists are still injured and some of us can barely walk. Kejriwal government has committed a disgusting betrayal against the working people of Delhi who had reposed a lot of faith in AAP. The working people of Delhi will not forgive the fraud committed by the Aam Admi Party. I think the Fascism of Aam Aadmi Party is even more dangerous than the mainstream Fascist party like the BJP, at least in the short run, and I myself witnessed it on March 25! And there is a reason for it: just like small capital is much more exploitative and oppressive as compared to big capital at least immediatelysimilarly, the regime of small capital is much more oppressive as compared to regime of big capital, at least in the short run! And the AAP government represents the right-wing populist dictatorship of small capital, of course, with a shadow of jingoistic Fascism. This fact has been clearly demonstrated by the events of 25th March. 


Apparently enough, Kejriwal is scared and has run out of ideas and that is why his government is resorting to such measures that are exposing him and his party completely. He knows that he cannot fulfill the promises made to the working poor of the Delhi, especially, abolition of contract system on perennial nature work because if he even tries to do so, he will lose his social and economic base among the traders, factory owners, contractors and petty middlemen of Delhi. This is the peculiarity of AAP’s agenda: it is an aggregative agenda (a ostensibly class collaborationist agenda) which ostensibly includes the demands of petty traders, contracters, rich shopkeepers, middlemen and other sections professional/self-employed petty bourgeoisie as well as jhuggi-dwellers, workers, etc. It can not fulfill all the demands mentioned in the agenda, because the demands of these disparate social groups are diametrically opposite. The real partisanship of the AAP is with the petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie of Delhi which is already apparent in the one-and-a-half-month rule of AAP. AAP actually and politically belongs to these parasitic neo-rich classes. The rhetoric of ‘aam admi’ was just to make good of the opportunity created by the complete disillusionment of the people with the Congress and the BJP. This rhetoric was useful as long as the elections were there. As soon as, the people voted for the AAP en masse, in the absence of any alternative, the real ugly Fascist face of Arvind Kejriwal has become exposed. 


Even internally, the AAP politics has been exposed due to the current dog-eat-dog fight for power between the Kejriwal faction and the Yadav faction. This is not to say that had Yadav faction been at the the helm of affairs, things would have been any different for the working class of Delhi. This ugly inner fight only shows the real character of AAP and helps a lot of people realize that AAP is not an alternative and it is no more different from the parties like the Congrees, BJP, SP, BSP, CPM, etc. Particularly, the workers of Delhi are understanding this truth. That is the reason why the workers of Hedgewar Hospital spontaneously went on strike against the police brutality and the Kejriwal government on the evening of March 25 itself. Anger is simmering among the DMRC workers, contract workers of other hospitals, contract teachers, jhuggi-dwellers and the poor students and unemployed youth of Delhi. The working class of Delhi has begun to organize to win their rights and oblige the Kejriwal government to fulfill its promises; the desperate attempt of the Kejriwal government to repress the workers will definitely backfire. 


Workers’, students’ and women organizations have begun their exposure campaign in different working class and poorer neighbourhoods of Delhi. If the AAP government fails to fulfill its promises made to the working poor of Delhi and fails to apologize the disgusting and barbaric attack on thousands of women, workers and students of Delhi, it will face a boycott from the working poor of Delhi. Each and every of the wounds inflicted on us, the workers, women and youth of Delhi on March 25 will prove to be a fatal mistake of the present government.

Public Statement on the Struggle of Correspondence Students of Delhi University

February 17, 2015
This statement is being issued by Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) as part of an ongoing militant movement of working-class youth enrolled in Delhi University’s School of Open Learning (SOL), which offers distance mode education to nearly four lakh students. We wish to begin with highlighting the huge protest rally held today (17 February 2015) by SOL students outside Delhi Secretariat. The express intention of the protest was to apprise the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Shri Manish Sisodia, of the students’ numerous pending problems. During the protest, a delegation of SOL/Correspondence students submitted a memorandum to the Deputy CM, who also holds the Higher Education portfolio. Students have demanded the introduction of regular evening college in 28 colleges of Delhi University (DU) that are funded by the Delhi Government. Students also demanded the provision of all route bus pass facility for DU’s Correspondence students.

Importantly, under the aegis of KYS, DU’s Correspondence students had earlier too submitted a memorandum to the Education Minister with similar demands on 3rd February 2014, i.e. during the 49 days tenure of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. At the time the AAP government gave little assurance of taking a proactive stand on Correspondence students’ issues. Of course, it has not escaped our notice that in the 2015 Delhi election, the AAP strategically excluded the issue of Correspondence students from its manifesto. It is precisely for this reason that the KYS-led DU SOL Students’ Union gave the call to Correspondence students to press NOTA when they went to vote.

Given the fact that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) party has come to the office this year with a thumping majority based on promises of alternative politics and of representing the marginalized sections of society, Correspondence students and KYS activists have beefed up pressure. The delegation that met the Deputy CM Sisodia during today’s protest strongly argued that the Minister should take more serious cognizance of the fact that 28 colleges of Delhi University are funded by the Delhi government and therefore can be made to cater to the needs of Correspondence students.

Expectedly, the Deputy Minister Manish Sisodia tried to skirt the issue by resorting to a typical Aam Aadmi Party populist tactic of promising something in abstract. The Minister expressed the willingness to introduce 20 new colleges in DU, while at the same time refusing to engage with the fact that of the existing 28 DU colleges funded by Delhi Government immediate remedial measures could be taken, i.e. by making the existing 28 colleges start the evening college shift and thereby accommodating Correspondence students in the regular mode. The Correspondence students also find the AAP Government’s promise of “reducing the gap between government and private schools” as an empty promise, considering the fact that the AAP government continues to bypass the long-standing demand of the Left movement for common schooling/common education system from KG to PG.

Expectedly, the lukewarm response of the Minister has convinced Correspondence students to strike back with even greater force and take their message to the city’s slums, factories, sweatshops and government schools.

The struggle of Correspondence students is an extremely important one. It is a struggle that has been waging for some years now and is based on active participation and organization of working-class youth as well as students from lower middle-class families. The fundamental issue around which the entire movement has evolved is that of inequality nurtured by the dual education system and the resulting exclusion as well as the marginalization of working-class youth within the university/higher education system.

Through their several protests outside the University Grants Commission (UGC), HRD Ministry (Government of India) and at the level of DU, Correspondence students have continuously exposed that contrary to popular conception, the distance learning mode (Correspondence) student community does not consist primarily of those who wish to pursue studies part-time. In fact a majority of students studying through the distance learning mode consists of those who wish to study in regular colleges but are forced to enroll in the correspondence mode because they do not get admission in such colleges. Majority of students enrolled in SOL come from economically impoverished and vulnerable sections of the society. Most of these youth are products of our country’s neglected government schools (such as Sarvodaya Vidyalayas) and small, poorly-run private schools. In the rat race to get into regular college education in universities like Delhi, they obviously get left behind. This is especially due to the shortage of seats in regular colleges of DU and resulting high admission cut-offs. Ironically then, government school students themselves constitute the largest section of youth who are denied admission to government-funded universities, particularly regular colleges.

Even this year 2,78,000 students applied for the undergraduate courses in regular colleges of DU. But with just 54,000 seats, most of the students have had to settle for the informal mode of education or distance learning. Most of us end up enrolling in SOL because we cannot get past the outrageously high cut-offs of the regular colleges. In such a situation, it is the duty of the Government to gradually try and ensure that an increasing number of such students are properly incorporated in regular courses. Unfortunately, the policies of successive governments have not been moving in this direction at all. As a result, there is a tendency towards increasing informalization of education for an increasing number of students. Indeed, in May-June 2014 there was an institutional pressure on behalf of DU to discontinue the Political Science Honors/B.A./B.Com undergraduate programs in SOL and to replace them with certificate/diploma courses! Due to this unholy design, the DU administration did not apply to the UGC (distance education board) for extension of recognition of its Correspondence courses. Only after much protest by Correspondence students did DU seek extension of recognition and began admission in July 2014.

The engrained anti-working class stand of the DU authorities is reflected in the actual functioning of SOL itself. SOL is running in an extremely informal and ad-hoc manner. The personal contact program (PCP) is most ineffective because the classes are very few and irregular. Even this year the classes of first year students were abruptly stopped after offering just 12 days of classes; leaving more than half of the syllabus incomplete. Similarly, classes of second and third year Correspondence students have started late, i.e. with exams just two months away. Students also pointed to a huge scam in sending messages regarding PCP classes with most of the students getting messages of just 3-4 days of classes.

Expectedly, due to non-completion of coursework and poor teaching during PCP classes, year after year, Correspondence students perform badly in DU’s examinations. With more than 50% students failing in the examinations and almost 95% students out of those passing just about scraping through, the institution’s failure to provide equal and meaningful education is evident. The fact is that there is a huge infrastructure crunch due to which SOL does not send messages to more than 20% student on any of the days of classes. On top of that even a byline is sent in the message saying: PCP classes are not compulsory just to discourage students from turning in huge numbers.

The students also pointed out that despite the fact that the number of students in the Correspondence mode is much larger than in DU’s regular colleges, the number of courses offered is too few. For example, popular courses like B.A. Honors in History, Sociology, Hindi etc. are not made available in the Correspondence mode. Moreover, the study material is outdated and is highly rote-oriented. The Library facility of SOL too is utterly inadequate and in need of a major overhaul. DU’s determination to keep SOL students outside the fold of quality higher education is also reflected in the delayed declaration of SOL B.A. results. Such delay ensures that SOL students cannot seek admission in DU’s post-graduate programs on time. Hence, every year so many eager SOL students have been turned away from seeking admission in courses like LLB, B.Ed, MA, etc. because DU fails to release their third year results in time for them to confirm their provisional admission to post-graduate courses. This is despite the fact that they pay the same examination fee and sit for the same examinations alongside regular college students of DU.

This story is not peculiar to DU’s Correspondence mode. Distance education (both at the school and higher education level) and the perpetuation of the dual system of education (i.e. co-existence of government schools and private schools) is a tool used by the Indian state to just about educate the country’s future workforce and to push working-class youth towards lower rungs of the capitalist labour market. That the interests of the working-class youth across different religious communities and castes are strategically kept out of educational reforms ensures that they continue to be excluded, or at the most, reluctantly incorporated into the margins of government-funded educational institutions. It is the message of this educational apartheid that KYS is highlighting through the struggle of DU’s Correspondence students.

Shahnawaz Jaman & Rohit Singh

KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS)
DELHI UNIVERSITY S.O.L. STUDENTS UNION (KYS)
Type III/300, Ayurvigyan Nagar, Near Ansal Plaza, New Delhi
Conveners: Md. Shahnawaz, Rohit
Ph.: 9958116114

Correspondence students to press NOTA Button in Delhi Elections

KRANTIKARI YUVA SANGATHAN (KYS)
DELHI UNIVERSITY S.O.L. STUDENTS UNION (KYS)

4.5 Lakh Correspondence students of DU SOL to press NOTA button in coming Delhi elections!

SOL students complain that their demands do not figure in party manifestos!

More than 4.5 lakh correspondence students of Delhi University’s School of Open Learning (SOL) have decided to press the NOTA (None of the Above) button in the coming Delhi elections as none of the political parties in the fray have included the demands of the struggling correspondence students. It is to be noted that correspondence students have been struggling for the basic right to equal education and have approached Delhi University’s (DU) authorities, the Delhi Government and MHRD. But discrimination persists with the University denying the correspondence students adequate study centres, classes, library facilities, etc.

The majority of correspondence students languish in DU’s poorly run School of Open Learning because of the sheer paucity of seats in regular colleges. For example, in the academic year 2014-2015 around three lakh students applied for the regular colleges of DU. But with just 54,000 seats being offered, majority of students were denied admission. Indeed, the problem of the dearth of seats is kept under carpet by releasing cut-offs for admission. Clearly, with not a single college being opened in last 17 years, more and more students are being forced into the informal mode of education. Thus, correspondence students never chose SOL willingly as a first choice but were forced to take admission here because of lack of seats in DU’s regular colleges.

Forced into seeking admission in SOL, correspondence students have long been demanding the construction of 80 new colleges – a measure which will accommodate a larger number of students who want to study in the regular mode, in addition to creating more teaching jobs within the University. As an interim measure, correspondence students have been demanding the introduction of evening colleges within the existing 70 colleges of DU where only morning classes are held. With the introduction of more evening colleges, existing corresponding students can shift to regular college education instead of depending on the informalized and poorly conducted education imparted by SOL.

Of course, none of the political parties contesting the Delhi elections have included the aforementioned demands in their manifestos or in their vision document. This is despite the fact that several representations have been made by correspondence students to the Ministry of HRD (Government of India) and successive Delhi governments (including the former AAP government formed last year by Arvind Kejriwal). We would also like to underline the fact that all the political parties are silent on the prevailing system of dual education. Their silence is sinister and reflects endorsement of a hierarchical and unequal education system where those with money are provided the best education in expensive private schools while the poor – who constitute the majority in our society – are relegated to government school education where sheer neglect rules the day.

The dual education system is clearly based on private schooling and government schooling, which renders huge inequality in the education system, and in fact, reproduces inequalities prevailing in our society. We know for a fact that it is the city’s poor who crowd government schools. We also know that government schools are in a rundown condition precisely due to government negligence on the one hand, and on the other, the government’s policy of promoting private schools. Expectedly, due to poor infrastructure and inadequate teaching in government schools, the results of government school students are extremely low compared to those of private school students. Even last year, few government school students received more than 85 percent marks in the senior secondary board examination. The harsh reality is, of course, that the admission cut-off of most of the undergraduate courses in Delhi University closes at 85 percent, leaving lakhs of government school students outside the realm of quality higher education.

It is a vicious circle through which student-youth coming from working-class backgrounds are confined to the same strata. Pushed into poorly-run government schools (like MCD schools and Sarvodaya Vidyalayas), these youth have little chance of entering formal higher education. Our country’s dismally low Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) is proof of this fact. With no access to regular higher education, working-class youth are pressed into lower rungs of the labor market where precarious work contracts and low wages ensure that as adults even they are rarely able to educate their children in the best educational institutions. The dual education system hence reproduces inequality and the precarious position of the Indian working class.

Aware of this fact, activists of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS) along with huge support from correspondence students have been campaigning among SOL centres and certain working class localities for the past few weeks asking correspondence students to press the NOTA (None of the Above) button in the 7 February elections. In the coming days students and activists are going to intensify their campaign for equal education.

Shahnawaz Jaman Rohit Singh

For further information contact: 09958116114