Right to Education Bill: Ruling Class Triumphs as Opposition Gets Coopted

Ravi Kumar

One of the differences between classical liberalism and neoliberalism is that while the former called for reducing the role of the state to a minimum and replace it by private capital the latter seeks to expand the role of private capital through the state, making it authoritarian and a dedicated facilitator of its interests. The recent developments in the sphere of education need to be seen from this perspective. The efforts to confer on the state the aforementioned role seems to be nearing completion as the Constitution is being rephrased to facilitate the interests of private capital. The current Bill tabled in Parliament is the most appropriate proof of that and the Left political formations are yet to raise any objection to the way its passage is being secretly designed.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008 was tabled in Rajya Sabha in the month of December 2008. It has been a long pending Bill, not because numerous objections were put to it but because it never figured as a priority for the Indian state. And as the contents of the bill reveal, it is still not very committed on providing quality education to every child. That, needless to say, compounds the sorry state of affairs here because India, unlike many other countries in the world, had failed to establish a school education system that made education accessible to every child before the onslaught of neoliberalisation. That those other countries had succeeded on that count was mainly on account of the necessity of capital – it needed the educated labour force. It also, of course, emerged out of movements in those nations. Indian state neither felt that need nor did the movements make such a demand. Consequently, the education system came to be seen as an autonomous agency of change, a unit divorced from class struggle.

The current Bill tells us not only about the intentions of the state, it also reveals the politics of the so-called progressive and secular actors whose methodology of looking at world as a canvas made up of fragmented and non-connected particulars has further allowed capital to entrench itself. There is a discourse built in the favour of the Bill by its disguised authors who have been sitting on the front benches of a politically amorphous identity called ‘civil society groups’ or ‘citizens working for the welfare of people’. And with the expanding intellectual base of such groups and popularisation of ideas of equality and justice as outside and disconnected to the character of capitalism and the facilitator state, the borderlines at such moments between the politics of the Left and those of such agents of capital tend to get blurred, marring the possibility of an organised resistance.

That the Bill has elicited no reaction from the Left parties and trade unions is because of this neo-liberalised character of the current conjuncture. There is no national concern for the mechanisms built into the Bill to pauperise the teaching labour force. It provides sufficient ground, through its Section 23, to appoint teachers who would continue to follow the parameters of what has become known as para-teachers. While great duties are expected out of the teachers there is no provision which would define their wages or working conditions. And may be the notion of teachers as non-workers, and as ‘messengers of god’ (‘…balihari guru apne govind diye milaye’) obliterates any possibility of their consideration as workers howsoever much they are integrated into the market and prone to the vagaries of capital.

For the opponents of the neoliberal assault in education, the Bill would make certain things constitutional – involving teachers in non-teaching work, insufficient school infrastructure as the norm, putting onus of educating children on parents, ambiguous notion of justice vis-à-vis providing representation to ‘marginalised’ sections, complete neglect of issues of curriculum, pedagogy, education for disabled children and making provision of financing education vague. But what emerges from this opposition is also the need to address these issues in the dialectics of labour-capital struggle, which is missing and which can be taken up only by those who would first agree that these are inherent problems of capitalism, and it therefore needs to be understood in a context.

While the Bill ignores the most fundamental aspects of education such as pedagogy, teacher’s education and working condition of teachers, it makes the intent of the Indian state amply clear. All flaws which were critiqued as schemes (for example Sarva Shikhsa Abhiyan) will now be part of Indian Constitution. The institutionalisation of inequity will be complete and constitutional. The hopes that the champions of equality and justice were pinning on radical changes within capitalism will be shattered in the most obnoxious fashion – passing a Bill which has lies written in it (for example, when it comes to financial provisions for providing education) and which is tabled but no public representation is invited on it as is the general practice. Hence, what the human resource and development minister writes in the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the Bill regarding the beliefs and values of “equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society” on which the Bill is supposedly “anchored” becomes nothing more than lip-service to the rhetoric of welfarist remnants.

Given that there are problems with the way developments in education are seen and analysed in India – in complete disjunction from the struggle of the working class and other struggles against capitalist disfigurations of human existence – there is a need to resist the Bill tabled in Parliament. While one may ask whether it is really possible to tackle the issue of majoritarianism or right-wing assertions through including it in the Bill, there are still possibilities to modify the Bill in the direction of providing a better alternative to what is being promised by the Indian State. For instance, the curriculum and pedagogy detailing can be framed in such a way that there is space for critical engagement with diverse issues of inequity or communalisation. Similarly, the role and working condition of teachers as well as their education is another major area of intervention. The mechanisms suggested for bringing about justice and equality in school also needs drastic modification. Changes can be suggested at all these and more levels. These suggestions in either form – whether accepted or rejected – will highlight the contradictions of the system vis-à-vis its rhetoric of justice and equality. And these contradictions will open up new avenues of resistance in the area.

Though there are problems intrinsic to even the anti-neoliberal critique, the resistance to the Bill as of now is minimal and negligible. The reasons are amply clear – there is no organised force in the country (not even the Left teachers unions!!) which is opposed to the Bill. While silence from the NGO-brand egalitarians is well understood (as they are designed to stand by capital in the ultimate run) those sections that consider themselves opponents of capital’s offensive have also withdrawn. The problem emerges from the fact that there is hardly any questioning of the logic of stratification and the process of production that shapes it. Rather, the fight is for inclusion in the existing system of stratification. The withdrawal emerges from their understanding of education as divorced from class struggle and political economy of capitalism. We can only hope that some day the anti-systemic forces of the country would emerge from their myopic understanding of how to look at developments in the education sector, relating it to the struggle of the working class. Until then, the ruling class would continue to score its victories through Amendments and Acts in Constitutions passed with their support.

An Open Letter to President Obama: Against the Rhetoric of Hope

Saswat Pattanayak

Dear President Obama,

I hope you truly emerge as the hope you have claimed yourself to be.

A hope for the ordinary people, who have believed in your promises of change and cried tears of joy upon your election.

A hope that will let the likes of Bernard Madoffs to face trial and be sent to jail, not left to enjoy house arrest at his comfortable multi-million-dollar penthouse, while, need I mention, thousands of young people of colour languish as under-trial prisoners of the industrial complex you are going to chair, a couple of days from now.

A hope that will finally help you decide whether or not you will cancel the series of billion-dollar extravaganzas that have been planned to herald your taking up a position of responsibility to serve, not rule. At a time when the world is reeling under economic depression a hope that you shall declare these scums of earth – those that are spending $50,000 a ticket to get a favoured seat at the ceremony to crown you – as your enemies, not friends.

A hope that you will finally advise your celebrity fans – the multimillionaire friends – that an election to a post is merely incidental, not phenomenal enough, to demand rhetoric like “Anything is possible in America – the greatest country on earth”. And that bunch of Hollywood celebrities may also be advised to root out the trees that hide their mansions from public purview so that people can get a view of how stinking, parasitical, gluttons the so-called commercial artists really are, living in the richest boulevards and inspiring the rest of the nation to become like them – almost in a pattern of dark humor.

A hope that you will rid yourself of the comparisons with Dr Martin Luther King, because unlike you he never would claim today that your election proves in any form, kind or shape that America has suddenly become intelligent or free, or both, in selecting its leader. He would never have accepted funds from Wall Street and Zionist lobbyists. He would never have accepted corporate media favors. He would never have remained silent at Israeli atrocities on Palestine. Unlike you, Dr King would not have claimed America has no colour lines just because two clowns in form of McCain and Palin could not inspire White America enough. Did I mention Dr King would not have voted unconditionally for the $700-billion corporate bailouts as you did – thus ensuring their media throw around bullets at a desperately sinking people’s hopeful minds?

A hope that you will be a world leader, rendering thoughtful humanitarian progressive opinions, not promising reactionary interventionist military tactics. Your urge to pursue military wars against tethering economies of Pakistan and Afghanistan is far from the hope the world looks forward to from the leader of a country that has, in the first place, created the mess those regions are.

A hope that you will truly stop addressing the AIPAC Zionist causes and rather side with the progressive Israeli and Palestinians in order to end the war on peoples in the Middle East – a war directly funded by American taxpayers money. So much so that the working class Americans are forced to pay 47% of their tax money towards fighting wars against Arab peoples. And now they hope, President Obama, that you will conduct direct negotiations with the Hamas- legitimately elected to government in Gaza – instead of funding hate against the Middle East by furthering flow of tax money to the Israeli militarist state. Certainly not to depend on the Republican Party adviser, Pentagon chief Robert Gates, to decide on your behalf – a process you have already formalised.

A hope that you will “fully withdraw” from Iraq and not “reduce” the presence of American troops there- your claim throughout that American troops are “part of the solution in Iraq” is a wisdom that is contrary to laws of international human rights as applied to sovereign nations, not to mention one that has resulted in slaughter of well over a million innocent people. Despite Abu Ghraib and despite well-documented deaths of civilians at the hands of the American military your view is abjectly hopeless: “The fact is that our US military is probably the most capable institution on the planet in terms of carrying out extraordinarily difficult assignments. And I continue to be concerned that we have set out for ourselves just an enormous task of rebuilding an extremely volatile and large country, and the military is not going to be able to do it alone so we’re going to have to have some good policies from Washington to move it forward.” Dear President Obama, the ordinary voters, deeply anguished at Republican measures and deeply brainwashed by Democratic media, have pledged their hopes on you. This is time, they hope you can move the military backward and “bring the boys back” home, not to move them forward into any more tortures in the Middle East that bring us shame as human beings, not just as divinely blessed Americans.

A hope that you do in fact refrain from the last lines in your speech in quoting the tradition: “Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.” As it turns out, there are so many of us atheists and so many of us followers of non-Christian God that it pains to notice the lack of a break in the tradition when it comes to religious diplomacy. In fact, Christian fundamentalism runs so high in the land that you had to invite the most infamous reactionary pastor to herald you as the leader – a man who most despicably declares homosexuality as a disease and opposes same-sex marriages. And oh, even while you used the media to woo the sizable section of LGBT constituency, your own opposition to gay marriage is also well pronounced. And yet, our depressed, repressed and suppressed sexual minority still hopes you will make true of your promises and get rid of seeds of intolerance such as the Godmen who preach against “God’s own”.

A hope that you will sincerely withdraw your inaugural speech in favour of a more pragmatic, critically progressive one. Your opening lines that “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer” just does not sound convincing enough. Are we not the same people who voted year after year based on what the media had to convince us on foreign, domestic and economic policies? A country having the largest record of anti-democratic measures, of having committed vote scams and frauds at presidential level, of having maintained an elitist tradition of two richest parties ignoring everyone else, an electoral process that decides on candidates based on how much funds they generate thereby eliminating anti-corporate candidates effectively – how could this country suddenly become the land of the dreams of its founding fathers (not to mention, that you keep forgetting some of those were slave-owning fathers) and torchbearers of democracy (or demon-cracy, dear President considering even on the day of your speech all the anti-democratic policies were still in place- from Guantanamo Bay to Iraqi oilfields? From military bases in Kuwait to assertions in NATO, from supremacism in the UN Security Council to maintenance of Cold War ties with dictatorial regimes of Saudi Arabia or installed state armies in much of Africa to slaughter people’s outfits?)

A hope that you will carefully snap your ties with the likes of Warren Buffett. Is it merely incidental that the very year you got elected was the year when Buffett was declared as the richest man in the world – the man who you claimed time and again was most qualified to be your economic adviser. The capitalist accumulator of ill-gotten wealth, the man who has become the charity celebrity – such a charitable man he is that he has promised to donate his billions to another charitable (sic!) buddy of his, Bill Gates for the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation! As though the activities of Gates Foundation in perpetuating life-threatening diseases in Africa by funding illegal factories were not enough, now your adviser and angel investor in your “middle-class” campaign, Mr Buffett, has to make the corporate houses stronger while rendering the government weaker – steps such as this which have caused the recent havoc at the first place to begin with.

A hope that you will sincerely abuse your own illusions about this country that you might have missed opportunities to critically reflect upon. Just because you were born in the land with a certificate that enabled you to contest as a Presidential candidate does not mean that you will continue the tradition of shoving to silence millions of hard-working taxpayers of the land who do not have the “legality” – a privilege that is bestowed not by some unseen supreme force, but by political leaders of the respective times. The “illegal workers” who clean the tables and the dishes before feeding millions of Americans every passing day of today are the black suffrage of yesteryear. The minority Hispanic, Asian and Black women workers – who earn way less than the minimum wage reserved for the male workers every hour, as housekeepers and nannies and bargirls in sectors that do not allow for unions and demands – are the Rosa Parks of today, whose voices have been silenced amidst glories of your victory. And you have led the rhetoric, Mr President, when you declare, “We are America. We are the nation that liberated a continent from a madman, that lifted ourselves from the depths of Depression, that won Civil Rights, and Women’s Rights, and Voting Rights for all our people.” In your elite school education they obviously rendered a myopic study of what America in the 21st Century was like. Perhaps you need to only go through your own EEOC reports to witness racial harassments, gender disparities in pay and discrimination based on sexual orientation before making sweeping statements on the nature of liberation embedded in the idea of Americanism.

A hope that you sincerely and finally acknowledge that the same Washington DC political lobby and the same Wall Street economic lobby are the ones that have lifted you to power. By default, your struggle will be against the working class people who on a daily basis wage wars against the aforesaid corridors of powers. And the poor working class whose money will continue to be spent on your imperialistic fanciful wars against Iraq, Gaza, Pakistan and other threats, as and when conveniently produced by the White House, with more than a little help from your so-called liberal press – the CNN and the New York Times that work overtime to turn the country into a land of hero-worshippers.

A hope that you, indeed, emerge as a hero worthy of the worshipping. This is no reality TV show and as brother Gil Scott Heron (hope they taught him in the Ivy Leagues) says the people’s revolution will not be televised. The streets of Gainesville, Harlem, Huntington and New Orleans will not have makeup artists and publicists to let people show their best faces forward. The masses do not possess the charm and power that the televised news anchors possess. They even do not have a right to define what constitutes poverty line in the country. They, however, will hope that you increase the official poverty line to demonstrate the reality of debt-ridden society of America. $21,000 annual income for a four-person family is worse than just poverty, Mr President, while calculating the millions of invisible in the land of billboards by Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble, American Express, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of America, Nike, KraftFood, Comcast, Costco, Burlington, UnitedHealth Group – all of these corporations and more whose shares are owned by your buddy Warren Buffet and your friends on the Wall Street. After having hoodwinked the poor of the country with corporate media propaganda that you stand up for their causes, while in fact you get funded by their class enemies, the people hope your friendly media conglomerate stops celebrating your words of free American joy immediately!

A hope that you will also remember what Dr King had said in the context of televised glorification of racial harmony as “cruel manipulation of the poor” and American War Presidents’ presence in foreign land as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”. Neither media propaganda about social normalcy in blatant disregard of the poor class, nor White House prerogatives to perpetuate wars in foreign lands have lessened, let alone, ceased. How can you continue to parrot that that no one should “question the power of our democracy”, and herald the biggest destructive force in recent world history – the US military – as the “most capable institution on the planet”?

Perhaps so, you have a need to showcase hope. But you know, acute realities continue to bite.

In Defence of Hamas

Pothik Ghosh

A spectre is haunting Palestine, it is the spectre of Al Qaeda. How else can we explain the near complete abandonment of the Palestinian cause by the international liberal community for which Palestine and its struggle for national self-determination were, till the other day, a never-ending love affair? The erstwhile drivers of the pro-Palestine global liberal consensus blame – allusively if not explicitly – its erosion on the emergence of the radical Islamist Hamas as the principal political agency of their resistance. That, in their reckoning, is completely indefensible at a time when the terroristic depredations of Al Qaeda’s pan-Islamism have sought to put the very existence of secular modernity in jeopardy all across the world. Clearly, this liberal perception, permeated as it is by the current international climate of anti-Islamist (even anti-Islamic) opinion, finds nothing wrong in projecting Hamas as a local manifestation of Al Qaeda’s reign of internationalist terror and obscurantism.

That has, in the context of the current Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, meant responses ranging from a spirited advocacy of “Israel’s right to defend itself” (the US and the UK governments) and equal condemnation of violence on both sides (various European regimes) to ineffective ritualistic criticism of the Israeli invasion by such die-hard allies of the Palestinian struggle as New Delhi, which has of late found a rather amenable seller of defence hardware in Tel Aviv. And if there can be an abomination greater than the relentlessly brutal assault being unleashed by the Israeli ground, air and naval forces on Gaza Strip, it is constituted by such absurdly heartless, even cynical, reactions. They indicate a wholly unwarranted ideological victory for the Zionist project of occupation and territorial annexation. That the core ideology of Hamas, elected to head the government of Gaza by its inhabitants three years ago, is Islamist has made it easier for the Israeli propaganda machine to render its vile acts of occupation – such as the 30-month-long blockade of Gaza – internationally legitimate. It has helped Tel Aviv suggest to its old and new allies, if such suggestion were necessary, that Hamas’s Islamist anti-Israeli position is merely a variant of the virus of pan-Islamist violence that is periodically purveyed by Al Qaeda within their geo-political boundaries.

The ideological victory of the Zionist enterprise has, however, more to do with the current global conjuncture than the effectiveness of the Israeli propaganda machine. The eagerness of most ‘democratic’ nation-states and sizeable sections of their liberal societies to read in the ascendancy of an Islamist Hamas the degeneration of the Palestinian people and their struggle for self-determination stems from this conjuncture, which is characterised by a complete instrumentalisation and institutionalisation of the ideas of liberal-democracy and secularism into an anti-democratic centre of capitalist class power and social domination. What is forgotten, as a consequence, is the true historical origin of the ideology of secularism in the various popular democratic struggles in the western world against institutionalised religion.

It is this subjugation, or shall we say blinding, of secular reason by power that has compelled the liberals of the world to not only equate Hamas’s Islamist ideology with that of Al Qaeda’s but has also led them to believe that the decision of the majority of Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, to jettison the secular-nationalist Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for Hamas is a case of wilful fundamentalist aberration. Had the rational capacities of the liberals not been so contaminated by status quoist considerations of power and social privilege, they would have realised that no people – certainly not those who are waging a war of resistance like the Palestinians – choose their political agency, and the ideological idiom and identity that come with it, at their own pleasure and free will. The failure of the global liberal community to ask, let alone figure out, why the Palestinians chose to dump their traditional secular leadership of the PLO, particularly its Al Fatah faction, for an Islamist Hamas has clearly been due to their ideological inability, if not reluctance, to see the political in terms of the social and vice-versa. In other words, the question of political autonomy, which is what all identitarian struggles for self-determination essentially are, poses the question of cooperative and dialogic social association either directly or implicitly.

What is, however, even more unfortunate is the failure of the global Left forces, in all their national varieties, to insist that their persistent backing for a national self-determination movement like Palestine is precisely because it has served to continuously foreground the aforementioned impulse of social transformation. Instead, their pretext for supporting the Palestinian struggle merely because it is a struggle for national self-determination has, ironically enough, put them on the same page as the liberals who now find Palestine a troubling and embarrassing issue. Such support has, precisely because it has reified the idea of political autonomy and national self-determination, been rendered ineffective. Worse, it has put paid to all hope of engaging the liberal community on its ideologically blinkered, if not politically motivated, perception of Hamas’s Islamist politics.

Autonomy, after all, is nothing but a means of seeking true representation of the self by struggling against its false representation by a regime of class domination, which is the logical consequence of a capitalist social order based on the ethic of competition, alienation and difference. Clearly then, autonomy cannot be won unless the order of competitive socialisation is transformed into one of cooperative social association.

In that context, the subjectivities of various movements of political (national, sub-national, caste, race, gender, religious) autonomy, insofar as they pose the question of autonomy and real representation of the concerned socio-political identities without dialectically unfolding the social transformative aspect immanent in them, continue to be articulated by the bourgeois logic of competitive socialisation. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that political autonomy and self-determination are, as far as such subjectivities are concerned, mostly articulated in terms of sovereignty – a bourgeois notion of competitive socio-politics which philosopher Georges Bataille explained as the complete invasion of the other by the self. Yet, it would be difficult to deny that such subjectivities at their moment of resistance – against their experience of social domination and false representation – unconsciously posit the objective struggle for decimation of the bourgeois order of competitive socialisation, and its transformation into a domain of free association.

The reason why the PLO’s leadership no longer finds too many takers among Palestinians, especially the preponderantly poor population of Gaza, is not only because it has ceased to posit such free associative and dialogic mode of socialisation but also because it has been actively blocking and undermining it. To see the rise of Hamas as an outcome of the corruption and venality of the PLO – manifest most acutely in the latter’s post-Oslo Palestinian Authority (PA) – is to merely put the problem in a moral frame. In real political terms, this venality of the PLO is no more than a manifestation of the emergence of a privileged class within the larger Palestinian society. Members of traditional propertied classes among Palestinians together with the new intellectual-political elite, chiefly of PLO and Al Fatah vintage, comprise this new class. This social phenomenon has, at the political level, found expression in the institutionalisation of the PLO and its version of the Palestinian movement. It is no coincidence that West Bank, which is home to Palestinians who have much better access to socio-economic entitlements such as education, employment, health, and various civic amenities both in quantitative and qualitative terms, is the base of PLO, PA and their secular Palestinian identity. On the other hand, Gaza, inhabited principally by pauperised and proletarianised Palestinians, has come to be the centre of Hamas’s politics of uncompromising anti-Israeli resistance.

It is in this context that Hamas’s refusal to expressly eschew its stated position of not recognizing Israel’s right to exist must be examined. The Oslo Accords between Tel Aviv and Yasser Arafat’s PLO in 1993 led to the Palestinians, under PLO’s leadership, recognising Israel’s right to exist as an independent nation in exchange for Tel Aviv’s acceptance of Palestinian national self-determination through interim self-government arrangements within the pre-1967 boundaries. The acceptance of those boundaries meant, in practical terms, accepting only the two territories of West Bank and Gaza Strip as Palestinian. It is these accords that culminated in the setting up of the PA. But in real terms, Oslo has meant Palestinian self-determination only on paper as Israel has been engaged in gerrymandering “facts on the ground” by constantly pushing more and more Jewish settlers way beyond the real pre-1967 borders and deep into the Palestinian territories as recognised by the Oslo Accords. That Israel would need to continuously violate the spirit of Oslo in this fashion is fairly clear. Its Zionist raison d’etre of Eretz Yisrael, the “land of Israel” for all Jews of the world, will keep inducing it to acquire more and more land for building new settlements for Jews, who continue to pour in from every corner of the world to seek the fulfilment of this founding promise of Israel.

The PA, especially under Arafat’s successors Ahmed Querie and Mahmoud Abbas, not only acquiesced in this brazen molestation of Oslo by Israel but even facilitated the violation by using both its security forces and armed Al Fatah fighters to keep Palestinian protesters, obviously more in Gaza than West Bank, at bay. That Abbas and his PLO crowd have watched, more or less silently, even as Tel Aviv has mounted its atrocities in Gaza ever since a Hamas government pushed PA out of there, is entirely of a piece with the PLO’s post-Oslo stance.

The PLO’s collaboration in this Israeli project of subverting the spirit of Oslo is both a cause and consequence of preserving the social interests of the privileged Palestinian classes in West Bank. The compliant collaboration of the PA with Israel has not only meant that the much better access of its privileged Palestinians to socio-economic entitlements and concomitant socio-political power, vis-à-vis the Palestinian poor of Gaza, is ensured. It has also helped this elite to fend off the political challenge of the toiling classes, rallied behind Hamas, through the instruments of Israeli occupation. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the Israeli endeavour to change “facts on the ground” have been directed more at Gaza than West Bank.

That, however, does not mean that the PLO and the PA have stopped posing their versions of a self-determined Palestinian identity with regard to Israeli occupation. But their recent ‘struggle’, which has inevitably turned out to be an apology of the concerted resistance movements it had earlier conducted, poses the identity of the privileged Palestinian class in a spirit of competition with regard to the privileged sections among the Jews, whose interests are embodied in the ideological-political project called Israel. As a result, the PLO-PA ‘struggle’ against Israel is merely geared towards enhancing the social position of the Palestinian elite within the stratified global political-economic order as it obtains to in the region. Clearly, the existential impulse of the Palestinian identity currently posed by the PLO-PA is that of reinforcing the capitalist logic of competitive socialisation. That collaboration with Israel takes precedence, for the PLO-PA, over its assertion of Palestinian autonomy indicates the quest of the privileged Palestinian classes for self-determination is essentially a bourgeois competitive enterprise to further their social domination. That, needless to say, has only reinforced the hegemony of global capitalism, and its Yankee-Zionist moment in the region.

Hamas’s refusal to abandon its stated position questioning Israel’s right to exist is, in that context, a repudiation of Oslo, which in reality paved the way for collaboration between Tel Aviv and the PLO-PA. That conferred a fig leaf of legitimacy on continued Israeli occupation, directed at denying the Palestinian underclass its real autonomy, but also enabled the social domination of the underprivileged Palestinians by their own social elite under the PLO-PA’s wing. To that extent, the Hamas-led resistance in Gaza for Palestinian national self-determination has, at this juncture, been both a struggle against socio-political domination and the bourgeois logic of competitive socialization that has engendered it.

All that does not, however, still explain why an agency of the Palestinian underclass, which is ranged against the collaborationist apparatus of Israeli occupiers and a Palestinian elite, would need to abandon its original secular-nationalist ideological idiom for a more puritan variety of Islam. And this question cannot be answered unless the secular-nationalism of the PLO, which was rejected after it became the ideology of a political institution of a privileged Palestinian elite, is located within the ideological-social space of Islam in the West Asian, especially the Palestinian, region. Islam has been the dominant indigenous cultural form in that region and all stirrings of enlightenment among its predominantly Arab peoples have been in its language. Arab-Christians have adopted the modern nationalist discourse, which has been articulated in this specific form of Islamic language, as much as the Arab-Muslims. The secular-nationalist ideology of the Palestinian national struggle under the PLO can be traced to the late 19th century Nahada (Arab Renaissance), when Islam was read against its traditional grain to articulate an absolutely modern idea of Arab nationalism against the Turkish Ottomans, whose imperial caliphate had then embodied the traditional idea of institutionalised pan-Islamism. It should, therefore, be clear that the secular nationalism of the Palestinian resistance under the PLO was not secular in the conventionally understood western sense of the term. It was imbued by Islam, albeit a liberal and inclusive variety of it. The ideological shift of the poor Palestinians – who now constitute the vanguard of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination – towards a relatively more traditionalist and pietistic conception of the religion must, therefore, be seen as a movement within the Islamic ideological space, away from its more liberal end, precisely because this liberalism has lost its earlier inclusiveness. To claim this was the only alternative the proletarianised Palestinians of Gaza had, considering that an effective working class force was absent in Palestine would be like stating the obvious.

And yet, it would be grossly inaccurate to equate the Hamas-led Palestinian struggle with Al Qaeda’s international jehad merely because both articulate their politics in the idiom of religious Islam. Hamas’s so-called radical Islam is, clearly, an organic language of protest, resistance and autonomy against socio-political domination by a foreign state and an institutionalised, secular local elite. Al Qaeda, on the other hand, posits its Islam as an anti-dialogic institution that needs to be imposed on the entire world in the form of an international caliphate. In fact, Al Qaeda’s institutionalised religion is no different from the institutionalised anti-democratic secularisms of modern capitalist powers it seeks to displace. Clearly, Al Qaeda’s struggle against capitalist liberal modernity is a competitive struggle of a section of disgruntled Gulf Arab elite funded by petro-dollars against other sections of that same elite and their socio-political allies within the stratified hegemony of global capitalism. Al Qaeda is a force of fascist reaction, Hamas the harbinger of dogged resistance and hope.