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)


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

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


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

Zero History (JNU): Towards Student-Workers Council… (Note I)

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a concept of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against fascism. – Walter Benjamin

What is neoliberalism? The age in which we are currently condemned to live is the age of neoliberalism. What we call neoliberalism is the state of emergency normalised. There is no outside and there is no outsider. Thanks to neoliberal re-articulation of all our activities, the entire society, and life itself, is now a factory that is perpetually in this state of normalised emergency. We are all inside this social factory. We reproduce and produce. The factory runs by plugging our bodies into the production machine. Marx had said, “When we consider bourgeois society in the long view and as a whole then the final result of the process of social production always appears as a society itself, i.e, the human being itself in its social relations.” Jadavpur University students, during the ‘Hok Kolorob’ movement, declared: “No One is an Outsider.” We entirely affirm this declaration and find it to be in sync with Marx’s insight. It is a concrete manifestation of the concrete materiality of our situation.

Our generation is experiencing the most intensified and rapid changes in history. The narrative of our times is encapsulated in everyone’s experience. This permanent state of emergency is nothing else but the permanent crisis of capital itself. This dialectical image is embedded in the experience of the working class. Every domain of work has, over the past couple of decades, been drawn into this state of emergency. Emergency is the inevitable reaction of this frightened and crisis-ridden apparatus, and it is the circuit that connects factories to university and college campuses, from Kashmir to the North-East, from Vidarbha to Chhattisgarh, from Muzaffarnagar to Trilokpuri, from local police stations to hostel diaries marking entries and so on. The parliamentary image of Narendra Modi is the image of this generalised/normalised permanent state of emergency. The enforcement of the Lyngdoh Commision recommendations with regard to student unions and their electoral procedure must, in that context, be recognised for what it is: the general state of emergency operationalised in the specificity of the university campus. The system had already demonstrated that it no longer needed its liberal institutions and their democratic forms. Not unlike in other sectors of production, more and more regimentation has been unleashed on student-workers involved in the production of knowledge. Just as Neoliberlaism emerges from the contradiction nurtured by liberalism in its depths, Lyngdoh has emerged from the contradictions within the traditional version of student politics. The very objective of the constitution of Lyngdoh under the Birla-Ambani report was self evident: to control student politics that is a major roadblock in the way of neoliberal policies. It is not by chance that in the name of curbing money-muscle power, the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations cited JNUSU election as a model of student politics! Now, what? The question is what should be the mode of struggle against Lyngdoh in JNU in particular, and the neoliberal emergency in general?

What does Benjamin’s statement “real emergency” vis-à-vis the material reality of our campus?

In the current conjuncture, there can be two modes of struggle against the generalised state of emergency. The first is a struggle for socialist reforms in a liberal-Nehruvian sense. It is often heard the rights the working class had won for itself after a long struggle through the 1960s and the 1970s is now being taken away. This is surely evident from the concerted onslaught capital has launched against labour: from curbs being placed on the right to unionise to recent changes in the labour laws. For the purveyors and upholders of the first mode of struggle reform, under these conditions, is the only possible articulation of revolutionary politics. On campuses such as ours, this mode of politics, in the face of manoeuvres akin to the enforcement of Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, envisions struggle for the restoration of the old constitution as revolutionary politics What is missed here is the fact that a backward-looking notion of history is central to this politics of restoration. While the content of history has moved far ahead, this vision of politics believes that the task of restoring old forms, of student politics in particular and working class politics in general, is revolutionary politics. In this mode of struggle, two errors are simultaneously committed. First, the working-class struggle is ‘fixed’ in the experience of the distant past. Consequently, we fail to develop the progressive essence of the past struggles in the concreteness of our times. Secondly, we fail to understand how capital subsumes these forms of politics for its own development. Capital is a ‘moving contradiction’. Capital is in motion through class struggle. The old forms of struggle sustain capital in a way. This is not a coincidence that new struggles of students and workers are distancing themselves from the old forms of trade unions and student politics. Against the politics of reforms, the new struggles of the working class are indicating a new ground of politics. And it is here that we ought to take stock of what we have called above the second mode of struggle.

In this very city of Delhi, for instance, the struggles of workers at IMT, Manesar, Okhla and Wazirpur, and the anti-rape movement of December 16, 2012, are suggesting a new ground of struggle and solidarity. The system, while producing and reproducing itself by dividing the working class into yet more segements view these struggles and movements with fear because they posit the possibility of decimating such segmentation regardless of whether the division is between permanent and contract workers in factories, and male and female workers, and students and industrial workers in the socio-economic formation at large. The kind of solidarity such movements have demonstrated is not solidarity imposed in a top-down fashion. The unrelenting process of pauperisation and proletarianisation, which characterises this neoliberal situation of generalised and normalised state of emergency, is experienced by students and workers alike as the increasing precarity of existence. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that these movements in question should demonstrate a new general form of students-workers solidarity. The regime of representation is now an open crisis. The struggle by the students of Jadavpur University today, not unlike the working class struggles of the last decades, is a wakeup call because it lays bare how the entire regime of representation is in a state of irremediable crisis. Just as the recent working class struggles have been distancing themselves from the old trade union-form of politics, the student-workers of Jadavpur University and Kolkata have, by eschewing the traditional model of students politics and organisations, presented themselves in and as a movement-form. This shows the disenchantment of the students with the representative parliamentary system as such. Keeping this second mode of struggle in sight, let us analyse the JNU model of politics against Lyngdoh.

In 2008, when the Supreme Court stayed the JNUSU elections on the pretext that it could not be held as long as it was in violation of Lyngdoh, we decided through a UGBM to restore the JNUSU constitution. As a result, right from the beginning we demonstrated how we had internalised the logic of restoration and the model of reformist politics. Something that has badly constrained our vision. It was said that the JNU student politics represents a developed model of democracy and Lyngdoh was an attack on the same. That is why we are opposed to Lygdoh in JNU. It is not surprising that such a logic has led most left student organisations, which have their active sections in JNU, to envisage struggles in universities that have not held elections for democratic representation of students in terms of demanding that elections be held in such universities in accordance with the Lyngdoh recommendations. In other universities such as the University of Delhi, where elections are held under LCR, it was decided that we will fight against Lyngdoh by participating in the elections. Consequently, the Joint Struggle Committee was constituted in order to fight against Lyngdoh on two fronts: political and legal. By political struggle it was meant the JSC will form a platform at the national level that will bring the students and organisations of different universities and campuses on a single platform to fight against Lyngdoh. A move that, we then believed, would turn into a nationwide movement. Through the legal struggle the JSC was supposed to fight the case in the Supreme Court for the restoration of the old JNUSU Constitution. After initial hiccups and demonstrations, the whole struggle became one huge legal battle! A common platform against Lyngdoh failed miserably. The trajectory of political struggle gradually turned elusive as the court case proceeded at a crawling pace, day by day. The mere speeding up of the legal process was projected as a political battle. The political struggle finally reached a dead end when the whole matter was sent to the Constitution Bench. It was basically a token commitment to political struggle. Political had become juridical! There was no way out of this save agree to elections as an exercise in self deception. With the acceptance of the soul and form of Lyngdoh, the elections began to be held under some bureaucratic concessions.

The experience of the last elections makes it clear that the onslaught of the generalised state of emergency has rendered representational bodies such as students’ unions objectively redundant. It is, therefore, not for nothing that Lyngdoh has succeeded in its objective. The state of affairs is such that the so-called political organisations have neither understood the real situation of student-workers, nor, as a result, have they been able to provide any effective direction to the political struggle against the generalised state of emergency that Lyngdoh stands for in the specificity of a campus such as the JNU. It is only when such a direction is taken by our struggle against Lyngdoh that we will have started ushering in Benjamin’s “real state of emergency”. The most interesting aspect of this whole drama has been that just before the previous election the two defeated versions of the same struggle for restoration have been exposed. The first version tells us that the legal struggle against Lyngdoh is a sham and argues for direct action to restore the old constitution. This way of direct action, needless to say, it peddles as revolutionary. The second version insists that this argument is foolish. It contends that such direct action runs the risk of inviting a no-holds barred stay on the election process. According to it, the only feasible roadmap for restoration is that of continued legal struggle. This apparent contradiction between the two versions of the politics of restoration ultimately serves to obscure the futility of such politics per se. The ‘insights’ that underpin such struggles can come only from a backward-looking vision of history and politics. These are both, therefore, different versions of the same reformist struggle against the generalised state of emergency. In such circumstances, the obvious question would be what is to be done if such restorative politics is out?

As we have mentioned above, the second mode of struggle, which is in keeping with the ushering in of the real state of emergency, is what we must seek to found in the specific context of JNU. And the only possible way to go about it is by striving towards a students-workers Council, or a general assembly. Why do we need an official/governmental union, be it the old one or its new Lyngdoghised avatar. If we look closely at the space that is the JNU campus, we will see that it is (re)producing social relations of capital by perpetuating segmentation among students, teachers, karmacharis and other workers, even as each of those segments are themselves get further internally divided. In such circumstances, the battle cannot be fought by imposing from above a unity on those segments in the form of trade unions and student unions. Workers’ struggles can forge a revolutionary-proletarian direction only in the process of breaking with and dissolving the segmentation that divides the working class into diverse identities. Therefore, steps towards envisaging a students-workers council, or a general assembly, are indispensable if politics on a university campus such as ours is to become truly revolutionary. We have to transfigure what we encounter as the crisis of capital as a system of social relations into the real state of emergency. This is how we can improve our position against administrative control, contractualisation, imposition of academic work and discipline, right-wing violence at the grassroots and the politics of identity. Any struggle in this direction will definitely be a real challenge to this normalised, generalised state of neoliberal emergency. And such a move towards envisaging transformative politics in the form of a students-workers general assembly would give a new meaning to Mao’s dictum, “Unity in Struggle, Struggle in Unity!” This would, among other things, demonstrate why the established strategic approach of unity of struggles is, from a revolutionary-proletarian perspective, thoroughly revisionist and counter-productive.

To be continued…

Zero History (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Released: 03/11/2014

The University Worker Issue 5

The University Worker 5

A Workshop on “Women’s Liberation from Working Class Perspective”, Sevagram (Nov 15-16, 2014)

Prepared by the Nagpur Section of the Organising Committee for Sevagram- New Delhi discussion series on working class politics

We do not need deep analytical tools to understand that worldwide women’s situation today is, at best, those of second class citizens and at worst chattel for male rapists. Everywhere, social division of labour between men and women is at the core of women’s subordinate condition and manifests itself in the society through sexual violence, segregation and ideological legitimations of imposed gender roles.

Regarding democratic rights, both in the public and private sphere, women widely remain under rules framed by men. It is difficult for women to escape from the prison house of marriage and prostitution because of their historically subordinated role in the labour force and unwaged position within the ‘family’ or the domestic /reproductive sphere. In a way Capitalism in fact has, in a double movement, widened women’s oppression as well as improved their situation while putting them in the modern factories and other workplaces outside home, enlarging the proletariat and thus the material basis of women’s struggle within ‘family’ and against Capital. At the same time it has been reacting violently to women’s own efforts and struggles towards emancipation since these struggles are an attempt to break the split between productive and reproductive spheres. The Capitalist Mode of Production (CMP) has proven to be able to transform, that is to say, destroy in a negative way the ‘family’, with a higher cost for the women who are left alone with their children.

In advanced capitalist societies (i.e., at the centre of Capital), women have largely been integrated in the wage labour while some partial (and reversible) socialization and small mechanization of domestic labour have been realized and women’s struggles have been pushed towards more “freedom” and “equality” within the CMP – allowing for example working class women not to get married (despite high levels of poverty amongst them) or giving bourgeois women opportunities to run big companies. As workers, women are employed in inferior positions with average wages lower at least by 20% than their male colleagues. As women, a vast majority of women still have to carry the burden of domestic work as well as taking care of children – which means a double day of work for them. Women in capitalist society still have to conform to the male objectification of their body, sexuality and mind. They still face everyday violence inside ‘family’ and outside, in the workplaces and in society in general.

In small towns and in the rural areas ( the peripheries of capital) women pay a heavy price, both as workers and as women. They are more under the social pressure and economic necessity of getting married – too often with a man they have not chosen – and therefore they are under constant pressure to preserve so-called chastity and family “honour”. They often do not have choice in matters of having children, taking contraceptives or abortion. On a world scale, they are routinely beaten up physically or even murdered on a massive scale – sometimes as soon as they are born. They have less access to education and their financial autonomy is far from being realized.

Women’s subordination already existed in pre-capitalist societies. In fact it has existed from the very beginning of human species, since the first division of labour between men and women anchored itself in the reproduction of the species – and then got consolidated in the “family’.

Within the CMP, women’s exploitation as workers and oppression as women take specific forms. We thus need to give a detailed look at the situation of women at workplaces (education/training, sectors of activity, wages-levels, hierarchies etc.) and in the family (marriage, sexuality, procreation/contraception, domestic work, bringing up children etc.), and also to the phenomenon of interaction between the production and the reproduction in order to fully grasp women’s situation under capitalism. And considering that CMP has not already unified women’s conditions everywhere, a detailed study of the conditions of women in different countries must be undertaken to understand the specific forms of women’s oppression, like in India for instance, where existence of caste adds another dimension to women’s oppression

From a communist perspective, we believe that freedom for women (and for all human beings) won’t be accomplished within the CMP, despite some “positive” changes we may have achieved within this mode of production. We may even say with Inessa Armand:”If women’s liberation is unthinkable without communism, then communism is unthinkable without women’s liberation.” But the solution will not automatically come from Communist revolution because women’s oppression existed even before capitalism. Women, as an oppressed community will have to take up that struggle upon their shoulders in co-operation with their male comrades, and sometimes against them, since men have a tendency to take advantage of women’s subordination. Freedom for women should lead to the emancipation of all.


We invite you in this workshop to discuss the following points:

Day 1: Historical and theoretical background of women’s oppression

– Going back to Marx and Engels’ works, how do we analyze and understand the origins of women’s oppression in the context of “primitive communism” and given the emergence of class societies, with a specific focus on the sexual and social division of labour?

– What are the specificities of the capitalist mode of production regarding women’s oppression and exploitation? Based on Marxist economical categories, what has capitalism done and is still doing to women’s condition in the workplace and in the family structure? What is the relationship between the reproduction of labour-power and the capitalist production of value and surplus-value? In other words, how does the CMP use women workforce (for example as labour in “excess” with an impact on wage levels) and how is the CMP benefited by a ‘separate domestic sphere’ where the reproduction of the labour power is furnished “for free”?

Day 2: Women’s oppression in India and struggles against it

-What is the situation of women in the workplaces and in the family in India? What are the differences and maybe the common experiences between working class, bourgeois and of upper caste women? What is the role of the State in the regulation of the reproductive sphere and maintaining women in an oppressed and exploited condition through legal and economical means? Also, how is CMP benefited by violence against women and how is the State responding to that issue?

-Can we characterize the massive anti-rape movement in India which emerged in 2012 (and still exist sporadically), as a radical democratic movement? If so, what are the opportunities and also the limits of such movements regarding women’s oppression and notably in pressurising the State to take action? Finally, what is to be done in order to end women’s oppression and how can we support women to self-organize on an autonomous and on a class basis?

We invite all activists (men and women) working for women’s liberation and working class emancipation to participate in the discussion at this two-day workshop at Sevagram on 15-16 November, 2014. The discussions will be held at Yatri Nivas, Gandhi Ashram, Sevagram, beginning from 10 am on 15th November and will conclude by 5 pm on 16th November. Those who wish to present papers on the different points of the discussion mentioned above are requested to send them by 15th October 2014.The expenses incurred during the workshop will be shared by all participants like we did in our previous workshops at Sevagram.

Some Notes on the Struggle in Delhi University’s English Department

Bhumika Chauhan

Much has been said about the recent protests of the Masters students of the Department of English, University of Delhi. Yet some things remain to be said, some need iteration. Although I am not directly part of this movement, it holds significance for me as an academic worker and as a Dalit in the university.

1) The most recent development are the responses to their complaints by the Ambedkar Reading Group (ARG) – their emphasis on the need to change the terms of the debate, to change the discourse, is well taken – responses that are nuanced, and express reservations that need to be distinguished from the low grumblings of teachers from various (including English) Departments; on occasion these grumblings have translated into an open stance, in some cases they have not. The charges levelled against the protesting students are of ‘casteism’ and ‘elitism’. The idea is not to defend the students. Responses to the ARG intervention clearly show that multiple tendencies exist within the struggling students and only the attempt to save the baby from going out with the bathwater is worthwhile. The fact that two of the three teachers against whom complaints were made were from the reserved categories may finally be the only basis for these charges. The manner in which the protesting students articulated their complaints does not in itself prove these accusations. The fact that a teacher does not take class regularly (one complaint) would have to be related to the teacher’s caste in some mysterious way for the complaint on this count to be casteist. Admittedly casteism can often parade in the garb of seemingly legitimate issues, but to imply that all such protests are casteists simply because they are made against persons who inhabit certain subject positions is to misrepresent too many complexities. Such assertions are often grounded in the compromised politics of a political correctness that tries to steer clear of complications that a multiplicity of conflicting subject positions produces. No an implicit casteism informs the early letter, and continues to colour some later responses to criticisms, and this needs to be addressed by the movement. But we must also recognise that this group is a heterogeneous one, and the movement is overdetermined by very many factors.

2) If a reserved category teacher lacks knowledge of basic texts (another complaint) it is a problem inherent to an inadequate reservation policy. This is an argument that has to be made by the defenders of affirmative action, not its reactionary critics. We acknowledge the disparity in the education available to different strata of society, and we struggle for justice, and end up having to make do (justifiably) with temporary solutions, such as affirmative action, to compensate for historical exclusion. The conflict between the interests of the reserved category teachers (livelihood, self-respect) and the interests of the students (of whom almost 50% are also from the reserved categories) for “quality” education should remind us of the incompleteness of such solutions. The offhanded, rather safely poised rejection by some, of the students’ complaint on grounds that they are ‘elitists,’ conceals the fact that much still remains to be accomplished especially in the lower rungs of the education ladder to ensure any semblance of equality in access to education. Instead of seeing this as a moment which forces us to recognise that the struggles of oppressed identities need to push themselves further, we get caught in the legalistic discourse of safeguarding the limited and limiting gains of affirmative action, even at the cost of alienating struggles emerging from other subject-positions. And to push it a little further: a teacher fails to explain what racism is and ends up actually deploying (perhaps unwittingly) a classic ploy used by racists to expound the naturalness of racial difference. Students complain against this. It is a strange irony that those who see themselves as being grounded in the anti-caste movement, seemingly forgetting the efforts made by the anti-caste movement to associate itself with the anti-racism movement, find it easier to call students elitist than to address the implications of the teacher’s arguments. But surely, the classroom too is an ideological space, pedagogy a moment of politics, and the teacher-student relation a power relation. Should we not take issue with what takes place in the classroom too? That ideologically compromised arguments and attitudes inform the practice of many other teachers is probably true, and the Ambedkar Study Circle’s attempt to highlight the lack of this recognition in the discourse of protesting students has to be registered; it is something that the movement too needs to address.

3) As to teachers, from the English Department and from other departments who have charged the protesting students of elitism and casteism, some introspection seems in order. What have they done by way of pedagogy, in any way for that matter, in their classrooms to address disparities in the cultural capital that students carry? (The efforts of the KSP Women’s Studies Centre in University of Pune come to mind.) This is not an ethical question (or not just that) to be addressed by individual teachers, but more than anything something to be struggled for collectively. Do not departments, syllabi and pedagogical methods, the way they are structured, foster elitism? Can elitism be seen to emanate solely from the attitude of students, many of who undeniably carry some amount of cultural capital, or is this elitism also materially grounded in the practices of academics here and now? The English Department, for example, stuck to the CATE (Combined Aptitude Test for English) for admissions to B.A. (Hons.) English for as long as it could. The argument was that the test is a better measure for students’ capabilities than Class XII marks, hence more ‘fair’ to individual students. The CATE basically tested students for skills that the university should provide them, and so invariably students with some amount of cultural capital ended up in the best colleges. (In a perverse way the Board exams, in which students who cannot speak and write correctly score 98 out of 100, may in a way be more democratic, for it does not always allow those with greater cultural capital to come out on top. It would, of course, be silly to say that one way of testing merit is better than another, but this observation should at least be able to bring out the manner in which elitism is fostered by those who continue to use the language of merit.) As a result not much attention is given to imparting the skills for which CATE tests students. How did English Departments develop the skills of the reserved category students admitted after relaxations of the selection criteria? If departments address these complicated matters the workload would increase, which in the current situation instead of creating more jobs will probably overburden teachers already teaching; the administration does not care how skewed the student-teacher ratio gets and how it effects classrooms. All the more reason for student and teachers to fight together; less reason for teachers to charge students of elitism that they have ended up becoming agents of.

4) Many leftist teachers have stayed mum on this issue. It is a political laziness that pushes leftists to take an easy ‘politically correct’ stance, supporting a kind of identitarianism that they would criticise in theory using nuanced political arguments. It is much more difficult to get your hands dirty, to be on the side of ‘elitist students’ against reserved category teachers. Such leftists must rememorise an old, relatively simple argument. Identities struggle, we struggle for an egalitarian world, and in the process of mediation end up with temporary solutions – affirmative action being one. Once institutionalised, affirmative action often leads to a kind of amnesia – those who have gained become part of the univers(al)ity that has historically excluded them, they forget the struggles of the past and those who still struggle. It is pretty much public knowledge that the selection of these teachers took place under shady circumstances. They were appointed by the administration in order to strengthen its hold. Their alienation from the struggles of the past is pretty much complete; in fact they stand in the way of that struggle, well and truly co-opted by the state. It is the anti-caste movement that must and will call them out. Our politics is not limited to defending upwardly mobile Dalit individuals, although this too has its role; we defend the Dalit movement, participate in it, for liberation of all Dalits (in the broadest possible sense).

5) The Leftist teachers who have in the past few years participated in various struggles against the administration and have raised concern over shady recruitments, need to explain their complete lack of engagement with the students’ assertions on such a closely linked matter. These teachers failed to enquire about the extent to which for some students the participation in the struggle was overdetermined by their concerns about their future in the academia, and undoubtedly also by the recent struggles in DU against the current administration. Those who wish to continue in the university see how such recruitments jeopardise their future. By not engaging with the struggle, even if by struggling against the compromised discourse that structures it, these teachers have missed an opportunity to constellate the segmented struggles of teachers and students over working conditions, to the detriment of all. The same is reflected in the teachers’ resistance to the students’ demand for an agenda-less joint General Body Meeting of teachers and students. Those who offered qualified support were more concerned with legalisms and procedures than with the possibilities the demand held for democratising education and for synchronising the struggles of teachers and students against the administration. Perhaps the early concerns about ‘student-feedback’ still troubles the teachers. When the students first registered their complaints some teachers argued that this is dangerous territory because it comes close to the VC’s ploy of pitting students and teachers against each other through mechanisms like student-feedback on teachers’ performance. This fear seems made it impossible for some teachers to imaging a student-teacher collectivity, perhaps they even fear it. But they should know that if this collectivity does not form itself, the state will, at some point, impose a form.

6) Now that some of the students’ demands have been granted – where do we go from here? In their response to the ARG, some MA English students called this issue “an open and shut case”. Were their problems with these three teachers all that brought the 200 students together in protest? Is the meeting of the demands the end of their movement? For those who see their future in the academia, it is more obvious that the struggle ought not to end here; there is much to be done towards gaining control of their workspace. But ought we not enquire about how the students were thinking about the struggle and what shaped their participation in it? Moreover, while some (or all) of them might hope for the Student-Faculty committees to lead to some meaningful engagement and democratisation, they have also seen enough evidence to expect the institutionalisation of the committee into a mere grievance cell where teachers address students’ complaints. Till the movement’s energy sustains perhaps this process will be stunted, but what about next year? How is the movement to ensure that it sustains, generalises itself? The movement did create a moment in which the struggles of various subject-positions could be seen to synchronise. The teachers have tried their best to squander this opportunity, and the anti-caste movement cannot connect with it till the discourse of quality and merit with its implicit casteism is chucked. But what can the students now do to further the possibilities their struggle offers?