Released by Delhi State Committee, Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), A Unit of All India Revolutionary Youth Organization (A.I.R.Y.O.)
We have not abandoned purely student demands,
but the best way to bring THE UNIVERSITY INTO QUESTION
is to intensify the workers’ movement.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Jean-Pierre Duteuil, March 22nd Movement, 1968
KYS’s polemical tract, What Is Ailing University Democrats!, has received many responses, and having read through them closely we have drafted the following. Not all responses were productive for the ensuing debate but there were some that reflected a serious engagement with what KYS had argued. We are happy to reiterate some of the points raised in such responses and to develop them further. With respect to the other responses received, such as those from New Socialist Initiative (NSI) and from University Community for Democracy (UCD), we have some detailed clarifications to make, and of course, some new observations to highlight. Nevertheless, the principal segment of this response is dedicated to the much more significant debate on the nature of working class politics and forms of its alignment with the petty bourgeois section in a given society. We have done this, because those who have sincerely reflected on our observations deserve further elucidation of our position. For those interested mainly in our response to UCD’s rejoinder, we suggest a close reading of Sections 1 and 2. To those concerned with the debate on Marxism’s deployment of class analysis, student-youth politics and the way ahead for the working class movement, please use your discretion and move to Sections 3, 4 and 5.
1. Some Simple Facts for Those Who Harp About Being Factually Sound
To begin with we would like to emphasize that KYS has absolutely no misconceptions about the nature of University Community for Democracy (UCD). We see it as a forum dominated by certain tendencies. It was these dominating tendencies that we constantly confronted in meetings and which we critiqued in our paper. It was very clear to us that right from its inception the functioning and constitutive logic of this forum was heavily influenced by New Socialist Initiative (NSI). With each day of participation in UCD, it became clearer still that the space was not an “open” one. This was because many of us, who joined UCD later, i.e. around July of this year, were continuously considered and treated as outsiders. We will underscore this fact shortly by quoting from minutes of the meetings. We attribute UCD’s functioning and form of politics to the way NSI shaped the contours of UCD. In the interest of its liberal politics (articulated best in its approach to NGOs, the media, the politics of alliance-making, etc.), NSI did not simply propose action plans for UCD to ratify, but even upturned decisions of UCD’s general body meetings in undemocratic ways, hence rendering consensus building in UCD a meaningless endeavour.
The following are references to minutes of meetings and emails exchanged in response to them, which prove the observation highlighted above:
i) In the 24th July meeting it was recorded that some people objected to the extension of an invitation to NGO persons to speak at the July 30th protest meeting. Instead of NGO persons it was suggested that students should be asked to speak. The consensus reached after discussion was that the NGO speakers suggested by NSI would not be called for the protest meeting. For NSI the discussion on NGOs was deemed “unnecessary”. They were unhappy with what was obviously a disruption in their preset plan for the protest meeting. This is why on July 27th an email was sent out by a member of NSI that as UCD’s “most active participants” they had decided to organize a program in Ramjas College, on the same day as the protest meeting (in the morning), for which the disputed NGO person was invited.
Note the repercussions of such a manoeuvre—UCD’s decision on not calling any NGO person as a speaker for the July 30th program was undermined. In Ramjas College the forum was, by force, allied with NGO politics (after all, in such a program UCD would be discussed, and hence, would be sharing a discursive space with NGOs—a space it had decided not to share till it was more clear on the credentials of certain NGOs). Needless to say, KYS was against the inclusion of any kind of NGO and paid ‘activism’.
ii) On the night of 29th June, i.e. 8:52 p.m., a message was put up on the facebook account/google group (many UCD participants were not members of these at the time), asking people to come for a meeting the next morning (30th June) at 10 a.m. We will highlight the contents of this meeting but before that what needs to be noted is that on 29th June, which was the first meeting of the UCD on campus, it had been decided by consensus to meet on the 3rd of July. In the rushed and poorly coordinated meeting on 30th June it was decided by those present (mostly NSI and its sympathizers) that Gandhi Ashram should become a concrete project of the UCD, that creating communes was part of UCD’s vision, etc.
On the contrary, in the 29th June meeting it had been decided to slow down on the Gandhi Ashram and commune issue till there was substantial participation on behalf of affected students. This point has been hidden in the minutes of the 29th June meeting, and in fact, the minutes only discuss grand plans on how the ‘commune’ would be run. The hastily called 30th June meeting was basically aimed at clinching the commune issue even before the 3rd July meeting. After this 30th June meeting a team constituted by “UCD” went ahead to speak with the Gandhi Ashram management. In this regard, this “emergency meeting” was simply held to preset the agenda of the larger meeting to be held on 3rd July. Clearly, there was an overt attempt not to take all of UCD’s participants into confidence when strategizing UCD’s politics and action plan. Perhaps now the reader can understand why KYS has taken the position that coordinating a forum through cyberspace is highly problematic. As an organization, we strongly feel that it is a space that is actively used to undermine the consensus building initiatives of those who take out the time to present themselves in general body meetings. We do not buy the argument that such a meeting was called in haste because there were many Mirandians in dire need of alternative arrangements. Why don’t we? Well, because we knew that the number of students still in need of a PG was negligible—a point proved by the poor response of students to the Gandhi Ashram plan. We knew that such a meeting was actually called to exclude many from UCD’s decision making process.
iii) On 20th July it was noted by Aashima who was recording the minutes of the meeting that “there was a BRIEF [emphasis added] discussion about what our approach should be gradually, if we should focus on hostel evictions or also give more prominence to the issue of unregulated rents and problems in the neighbourhood since many students live in private accommodation.” Ironically, immediately post this meeting it was held that UCD had developed a detailed and important [emphasis added] position on the problem of escalating rents. KYS and CSW were consequently denounced for running a “parallel” campaign on the issue of rent and for compromising UCD’s attempts in this direction. There are two points we would like to clarify here. The first that NSI’s Commonwealth Games-University centric approach ensured that when rent was taken up by UCD it would be done so as a student specific issue/concern. That is why rent is mentioned in the first UCD parcha in precisely these terms—“It (University) has thus become an accomplice in the larger processes of reckless corporatisation that the whole city is undergoing in the bid of become a ‘global city’. This has left students [emphasis added] at the mercy of private accommodation, with its unregulated rents and precarious guarantees. Rents are rising in anticipation of the increased demand for PGs and flats, forcing many existing residents to move out and making accommodation unaffordable for incoming residents as well…” Indeed, raising rents as only a student specific concern is the brainchild of UCD. KYS was trying to point out this unfortunate fact in its last pamphlet, and was least interested in establishing a copyright on the issue of rent control.
The second point we would like to highlight here is that by conceptualizing rent as a student-University specific issue, UCD has not been pursuing a feasible or a desirable campaign for rent regulation. In that sense KYS’s initiatives on rent control cannot be compared or considered “parallel” to those of UCD for it conceptualizes rent as a generalized problem for migrants in city. Why is the UCD campaign not feasible or desirable? It is not feasible because the rents of one area, i.e. the University area, cannot be regulated without the regulation of rents across the city. The UCD campaign is not desirable either because its approach to rent does not take into consideration the majority of tenants in the city. After all, for the scores of DU students living with their families on rent it is not at all desirable that rent be perceived as a University-neighbourhood problem alone. In contrast to UCD and its many constituents, KYS has been mobilizing both students and non-student youth who live on rent. Considering rent regulation is the responsibility of the Delhi Government, we have approached the Chief Minister on the issue. Although the Chief Minister has given certain assurances, we know for a fact that to pressurize the government into action, the struggle for rent regulation across the city has to be further intensified.
Having drawn on these references we would like to highlight, in brief, the nature of KYS’ contribution to UCD and at what conjuncture we finally withdrew from the forum. We do this to put at rest certain presumptuous accusations about our “negative” or “non-proactive” role in UCD. As an organization with other commitments to attend to, KYS sent three to four of its members to UCD meetings up till the point it decided to move out of the forum. Yes, in that sense we didn’t seek to bombard the platform with our physical presence just so as to ensure that UCD’s contours mapped down to what had been pre-decided from before. Again, for UCD activities (such as area-campaigning in Vijaynagar or college campaigning) we sent our members. KYS also circulated UCD’s parcha independently at the SC/ST admission counters in Arts Faculty and amongst students living in Sangam Park-Gurmandi area. This area is a working class neighbourhood in which many students enrolled in Satyawati Morning and Satyawati Evening College, stay on rent. Furthermore, our fraternal organization, CSW also distributed the UCD parcha in University Hostel for Women.
When our participation was not possible during UCD activities such as attending DUTA’s GBMs, we informed other participants well in advance. There have been references to us sabotaging UCD’s campaign on the 21st of July, i.e. the first day of the academic session. If certain participants in UCD were not so hell bent on writing off KYS’s participation they would accept that there was a confusion that day about where to assemble first for college campaigning. KYS members had not checked their email accounts on the night of the 20th which is why they were under the impression that UCD campaigners were to assemble at Khalsa College first, watch the street play, and then move onto the other colleges slotted for campaigning that day. This is why KYS’s member reached Khalsa and not Daulat Ram College on the morning of July 21st. Post this incident our members checked posts of UCD on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the resentment continued on the part of “UCD”.
By the end of July, conditions were such within UCD’s functioning that KYS no longer considered it feasible to participate in the forum. Firstly, two consecutive meetings (22nd July and 24th July) were channelized in a way to literally flush out KYS from UCD (you would only get glimpses of this in the minutes—the real witness to this are the participants themselves). In such a hostile atmosphere no organization can consider serious participation possible. Secondly, and more importantly, the NGO-ization of UCD was something KYS refused to tolerate. Keeping the July 30th Ramjas program (especially its repercussions) in mind, KYS decided to withdraw from UCD. It attended the 30th July protest meeting but only its fraternal organization, CSW sent a speaker. By the end of the 30th July protest meeting even CSW decided to completely withdraw from UCD. So, for those who hinted that our non-participation in the “relay hunger strike” was noted by all, we would like to emphasize that KYS had withdrawn from the forum by then, like many others. Now that the ‘graph’ of our participation has been drawn for all to see, you will observe that claims of us not being supportive and pro-active, are based on wilful misconceptions.
Of course, what we also need to highlight here are the conscious attempts to frustrate the efforts of KYS and others to pave the way for UCD to come on its own. More than one person in their response to KYS’s earlier mail (such responses being quite a significant retrospective critique of UCD), have accepted that corner meetings prior to or after UCD’s larger meetings were actively pursued. We have shown above that such a practice was encouraged by NSI so as to control UCD’s political process—a control/influence not based on substantive debate and ideological consensus building but on apolitical ties of familiarity/friendship. When such apolitical influencing measures showed signs of breaking, NSI actively projected KYS’s arguments which were raised in UCD meetings, as an articulation of “pre-existing resentment”. Many in their email responses have revealed (intentionally or unintentionally) that NSI actively spread this rumour. Unfortunately for NSI, many individuals drawn to UCD could not be fooled for long about the real nature of KYS’s arguments, i.e. on the compromised form of NSI-influenced politics and the sectarianess of UCD’s constitutive logic. Indeed, the biggest obstacle to UCD coming on its own was the umbrella formation NSI had forced upon the forum, in the interest of promoting its own liberal politics.
Let us now draw attention to some crucial details that will elucidate KYS’s position further. Firstly, the crux of KYS’s critique (which some people failed to understand), pertains to how struggles demanding “democratic space from the University”, are elitist and sectarian. We have been arguing this because such struggles entail the following: i) demanding democracy for a privileged minority, i.e. 7 percent youth (i.e., the percentage of youth making it to higher education in India), whose inclusion in the University system is actually based on somebody else’s exclusion; ii) demanding from the University something it does not have—the real power residing somewhere else. Of course, the conclusion to be drawn from these two insights is not that University politics should be shunned, but rather, that the form of such politics be transformed. The solution lies in a politics that is based on uniting non-student youth and University students (please see our discussion below, on the DTU students’ protest and on the issue of fee hike. Also see section 5). Undeniably, for such politics to materialize, organizations will have to stop focusing on the University alone, and more importantly, will have to mobilize University students on issues that unite them with youth excluded from the education system. We do hope that in the near future there are more organizations like KYS, which along with work in the University; pursue neighbourhood work amongst youth residing in working class localities.
Secondly, KYS in its earlier pamphlet highlighted the tokenism prevalent in UCD’s approach to workers and workers’ issues. We stand by our earlier critique. With respect to some of the comments made by UCD’s participants regarding the forum’s approach to workers, we support what Naina highlighted in her mail on September 3rd. However, we would like to further problematize UCD’s position that there is nothing wrong/destructive in perceiving workers (their issues, etc.) through a petty bourgeois lens. Indeed, such practices are a serious obstacle in the path of progressive struggle. We would like to prove this by drawing attention to the highly problematic political and theoretical roots of such an approach. Politics based on petty bourgeois notions of empathy (sympathy, etc.) is nothing but the repetition of Bogdanovian tendencies in the working class movement, which were based on the neo-Kantian notion of verstehen. Such tendencies have always been criticized for their anti-revolutionary potential, and Lenin himself presented a devastating critique of these tendencies in Empirio-Criticism.
To elucidate—when you are seeking to understand the working class, you merely end up gathering empirical information on workers (i.e., how they feel, and how you would feel being in their shoes, etc), rather than perceiving the objective condition of the being of the working class (i.e. the conditions that create and reproduce the class in the first place). It is precisely because of this empirical fact-finding that you fail to reach the condition where you realize the organic connection between your oppression and the working class’s exploitation. Of course, the by-product of not reaching this condition is that the petty bourgeois class, as a whole, fails to realize the revolutionary potential of the working class, especially its ability to liberate all classes from the oppression of capitalism. As a result, the petty bourgeoisie continues to suspect and maintain ideological distance/discomfort with working class politics, and at most, engages with working class politics in patronizing ways.
Furthermore, we would like to reiterate that there is often little ‘good intention’ involved in practices like slum work/tutoring working class children, etc., for bodies like Women’s Development Cells, Social Service Leagues/NSS cells, etc., tend to institutionalize such activities into extra-curricular ones. Indeed, such bodies tap on the sensitiveness of certain individuals and draw them unnecessarily into the network of NGOs. Sadly, this is a huge loss for the working class movement since it doesn’t need youth who, through social work, continue to work within the system. Instead, the movement needs youth who engage with the process of class and realize the need for class struggle. Thus, the intention behind bringing these points to the attention of UCD members was not so much to “mock” their endeavours, but to reveal to them the drawbacks of their form of politics.
Thirdly, by raising the issue of the Miranda House construction workers we sought to establish how necessary workers are for launching a successful struggle against the Commonwealth Games (CWG). Unfortunately, in their response UCD completely elided this issue. In fact, they resorted to highlighting meaningless gestures made by them with respect to workers’ issues. We quote, “…[W]e have stood against construction work in the University that violates legally sanctioned labour standards and have integrated it into our demands…” Indeed, this ‘integration’ with no participation in actual workers’ struggles, amounts to tokenism. UCD and its dominant subset, i.e. ‘new’ socialists, may not be running a trade union, but really, should their pre-decided programs (“hunger strikes, etc.) be so inflexible that they cannot be part of a struggle for which they otherwise mouth support (especially when such a struggle is taking place just down the lane)? Furthermore, UCD’s choice of words while describing its support for workers is troubling indeed, for it reflects a non-engagement with workers’ real issues. It is assumed by the forum that provision of legally sanctioned labour laws means an end to workers’ exploitation. In reality, even when workers are employed according to legally sanctioned labour standards, the process of work itself is highly exploitative. In fact, as observed by our trade unions, sometimes legally sanctioned labour laws like those pertaining to overtime, accentuate workers’ exploitation. In the case of laws pertaining to overtime, contractors use them to exploit their existing force of workers, rather than employing more workers for the job.
You speak of boycotting the Games, yet you fail to support the most productive and meaningful attempts to stall the Games. Really, how can you boycott something that has boycotted you?! A boycott would result in substantial losses in the gains of all those profiting from the Games. Take for example the boycott of foreign goods during the Non-Cooperation movement; it led to a massive dip in sales, followed by a huge loss of profits earned by British manufacturing units, and hence, to a weakening of the colonial state’s position in the market. However, your ‘boycott’ doesn’t have any such repercussions, and it is you, in fact, that are bearing all the losses (the hostels have been taken away and you couldn’t stop it; the prices of everything you consume have risen and you couldn’t stop this either; etc., etc.). This has happened precisely because your ‘boycott’ has been envisaged in an isolationist manner (best captured in students/teachers buying anti-CWG badges and T-shirts). Friends, this is a crucial time and workers are far from silent. For a fact pending construction work at the numerous CWG work sites is not so much due to the rains/corruption (as highlighted by the media), but due to spontaneous and frequent protests by workers employed there. Imagine if these one lakh workers were organized, and then launched their struggles…there would be no Games. In this context, should we be content buying/selling badges, filing RTIs, etc, or, should we be helping bring in the real tides of change? Realizing the necessity of involving workers in the struggle against CWG, KYS and its fraternal organizations like Mazdoor Ekta Kendra and Delhi Nirman Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, have been mobilizing workers across different CWG sites. Our intervention in six CWG sites have met with success, but only one was highlighted by the media, i.e. the struggle of Miranda House construction workers. Indeed, the few ‘progressive’ newspapers that covered the workers’ protest did so not because they were interested in highlighting the workers’ demands, but because they were interested in highlighting the active participation of Miranda House students. So much for the media!
On a last note, we would like to emphasize that KYS brought out many other problems with respect to UCD’s campaign. On the question of how certain teachers were participating in UCD we hardly got a satisfactory response. Since Paresh Chandra in an email explained very well the problem with a certain form of teachers’ participation, we do not consider that any further arguments are needed on our behalf. Even on the issue of Gandhi Ashram we received a poor response from UCD, which basically, amounts to no response. For factual details and elaboration on the problems with the Gandhi Ashram project, please see Paresh’s response on September 3rd. Of course, on the question of the “relay hunger strike” we received no suitable reply. If UCD continues to hold on to its own definition of what such a hunger strike is then we have one suggestion to make. We know of a student who hails from an agrarian worker’s family and travels every day by train, from Sonepat (Haryana). He is able to eat only in the morning and is able to have his next meal only when he returns at night. Please also involve him since he is perpetually on hunger strike, i.e. according to your definition. Indeed, it will suit your politics of spectacle.
KYS would also like to object to the misrepresentation of some of its arguments. We have never claimed that only a dalit/poor/muslim/gay/tribal can speak on the issues of the oppressed. UCD has once again missed the point and quoted our arguments out of context. Kindly remember the exact context in which Sujit spoke of his Dalit background. He was replying to someone called Bala.poorna who alleged that Communists (including those in our organization) were upper castes and lacked commitment on the question of caste oppression. When responding to this diatribe our member highlighted his own social position so as to prove that not all Communists are upper castes, and that Bala, in fact, was writing off the voice of the oppressed by resorting to baseless accusations. Interestingly, the real nature of our arguments, were not lost on those who gave it proper thought. Individuals like Naina were quick to pick up our point and have argued very convincingly in our support. We reiterate, it is the form of politics which is important for all participants in a movement (be it the petty bourgeoisie or workers).
2. More About NSI’s Role In UCD And Its Real Position In India’s Left Circuit
In India’s Left movement, New Socialist Initiative (NSI) has been long identified as a bourgeois oppositional formation. We highlight this fact simply because in both NSI’s and UCD’s response we saw some unjustified/unsupported claims to the contrary. Despite its ambitious claims NSI is no longer considered a part of Communist League of India (CLI) camp. For more on politics of NSI please see Lal Salaam (a theoretical-political journal). It is interesting to note that one reason why NSI has been identified as such is due to its “official” or “unofficial” support (see report of CASIM) of political fronts like Indian Social Forum (ISF) and even World Social Forum (WSF). Both ISF and WSF are platforms severely criticized for their rainbow political formations in which NGOs and their funding play a big role in delegitimizing several (armed) people’s movements. In fact, in terms of the form of its politics, NSI is a mirror image of such platforms. In this context, we have one immediate question for all those who wrote off KYS’s observations as “malicious”—are critiques on NGOs and NGO-ised forums, presented by persons such P.J. James, James Petras, Shashi Prakash and many others, simply ad hominem attacks? Can everything be reduced to malice or does that accusation stem from your inability to respond to most of the political questions raised?
Moving on, we would like to flesh out the details of how NSI has actively shaped UCD as a mirror image of itself. We do not buy the argument that UCD is a loosely constituted body or “a composite group of left organizations, individuals, liberals, progressives”…blah, blah blah. We don’t, for the simple reason that UCD’s functioning has revealed something very different. The forum’s being and existence is best explained by drawing an analogy to the Chinese doll (with its several folds). NSI, an archetypal liberal organization, was the core of UCD (the doll according to the analogy being drawn), and from the very beginning different liberal positions were congealed around it. In spite of its claims of debating and then accepting/rejecting questions/programs, “as per the larger consensus in UCD”, NSI did not succumb to these liberal gestures at all. Acting as a vector of the liberal virus itself, it did not merely support ideas/suggestions but actively initiated and consolidated certain developments in UCD. Let us draw on some references which shed light on this not so innocent contribution of NSI in UCD. For instance, NSI members actively proposed the entry of NGOs in UCD’s campaign. Similarly, they supported and promoted NGOs as bodies that build “more nuanced bridges of understanding”. One of NSI’s members, in his adamant support and promotion of NGOs, even boycotted an ongoing discussion during a UCD meeting (24th July to be precise). And to top it all, many NSI members work for NGOs—a reality that orients them towards NGO-izing whatever platforms they are part of. Another revealing example comes to mind and this pertains to the way the media was approached and perceived by NSI. Instead of criticizing the media in its bourgeois form, NSI members went to the extent of identifying newspapers like Tehelka as “friends”/”part” of the campaign! One NSI members even said that Tehelka, if involved extensively, will make the process of the campaign “smooth” (29 June 2010). Expectedly, this perception also became that of UCD, as reflected in some emails exchanged during end June and early July. Of course, we would not have said anything if such statements on the media had not come from an organization that claims to be Marxist. Isn’t it a Marxist axiom that in the process of resisting capitalism we should not reproduce the spirit of bourgeois thinking?
3. How Marxism Identifies the Position of the Working Class vis-à-vis Identities
While upholding KYS’s critique of the form of politics represented by the main tendency in UCD as well as KYS’s understanding of the relationship between identity and class struggle, Paresh Chandra, in his most recent response differs on some of the specificities of KYS’s prognosis. His main difference with our position is that students’ class position cannot be identified on the basis of their class background and the kinds of colleges/institutions/courses they end up in. For him the main defining feature of student [all]- as- worker is the very condition they (students) are being ascribed within the university/education system (more on this later). He further accuses us for identifying the class position of students only on the basis of their background whereby reducing class to a “sociological fixity”. The end result being that we read class as a static sociological entity which can then be found more in some institutions/courses than the others. On the contrary, we had argued that ‘student’ is an identity comprising of different class positions and if we don’t see the different class positions within (and its implications) we will end up reducing university politics into an identitarian one (having identifiable common interests vis-à-vis other social entities and the state). To further elucidate, it is the different class trajectories (journeys) that determine the being of a student. These trajectories are based not only on class background but on the class process itself (i.e. the process whereby one’s class position is subject to change, depending on changes in the contingent factors in the economy). Thus, what kind of student one will end up being is determined by the combination of one’s class background and the class process (something which creates possibilities of contradictory class positions, particularly with respect to the middle strata, i.e. the petty bourgeoisie, the peasantry, etc.). To simplify the matter, there can be different kinds of students: working class, petty bourgeois, peasant, bourgeois, etc. We will restrict our discussion to working class and petty bourgeois students because of their particular bearing on the nature of university politics that exists in general.
Working class students find themselves in a condition where they get admission to lower grade educational institutes, and even when they enter the threshold of better institutions their inability to cope up causes them to perform badly. Considering this, their pursuit of higher education is such that they take with them merely the basic skills required to survive in the job market. Their education is directly based on them being future bearers of labour power/producers of surplus value, and hence, the logical conclusion of their education is them becoming workers. On the other hand, some petty bourgeois students, through education, come to acquire skills (as a property form), which then helps them share with the bourgeoisie, surplus value produced by workers. Characteristically, petty bourgeois students regard the future as relatively bright, and instead, complain of the drudgery of the present (for them the immediate is what is visible and troubling, i.e. the rigors of the education system and the fact that they sometimes receive less pocket money than what workers earn). Bourgeois students pursue an education so as to acquire the etiquettes which will help their further integration into the ruling class. Thus, their coming to universities to study does not make them part of the working class or petty bourgeoisie.
However, arguing from his position of student-as-worker, Paresh contends that our class analysis of students led us to project class as a sociological entity. To begin with, Paresh has unfortunately misread our historical empiric, i.e., a level where things will only appear as a sociological entity. We never equated class with what simply appears as a sociological entity, and, in fact, see it as a process which is bolstered by state policies seeking to fulfill the needs of the labour market. We concretely think class is a historical accumulation of humankind that has a determinate relationship with other classes, which might or might not appear as sociological entities in their different moments of congealment in the trajectory of their unfolding. In fact, in the paragraph quoted by Paresh, we have talked about students as a sociological entity, hence, requiring a class analysis. If only you had managed to go beyond the phenomenological level (where you have hypostasized our historical empiric) you would have definitely realized that our historical empiric is linked to how ‘student’ as a sociological entity, is connected to government education policies and the education market. For example, when we talked about youth who have studied in government schools, come from the Hindi medium background, rarely get admission to college hostels and struggle to cope with increasing college fees and English medium teaching/coursework, we were hinting at the existence of a dual education system (prevalence of both government schools & private schools). We were also hinting at the cut off system, an administrative process in which students coming from different backgrounds are distributed among graded colleges. Because of the cut off based admission process, many students coming from the working class get admission to low grade colleges, and do not get admission into hostels because such colleges do not have any.
In more ontological terms, we are saying that the state is the constitutive element in the expanded reproduction of the system, which requires different forms of labour to be produced through graded education. Indeed, how else can one explain that only 7 percent of all youth who clear the twelfth class examination, find their way into higher education, and that even at the level of higher education the Radhakrishna system of ‘centres of excellence’ prevails? How else would we explain that our school education is hierarchically arranged in the following manner: Charvaha Vidyalas/Ekal Schools for children of agrarian workers and poor peasants; Navodayas for children of agrarian elites; Sarvodayas for children of the urban working class; KVs (Central schools) for children of central government employees (a strata itself divided into a petty bourgeois and working class position); and expensive private schools like Woodstock, Doon, Mayo, Modern, DPS, etc. for you know whom.
Now that we have clarified what we meant to say in our quoted sentences, let us clarify what Paresh is actually saying in the paragraph quoted from Correspondence’s pamphlet. Paresh quotes, “When Marx says ‘working class,’ does he mean only the ‘male, white, industrial proletariat?…” Kudos to you, your move to go beyond Marx with Marx has allowed you to throw suspicion on Marx’s understanding. This is an infliction of the liberal virus on revolutionary ideas; ironically something you yourself criticized UCD members for. To relieve you of your (mis)reading of Marx, we leave you with Marx’s own words: “Labour in a white skin cannot emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin” (Capital, Vol. I). Clearly, Marx had an understanding of the working class being both white and black. Numerous writings of both Marx and Engels will also prove that they believed the working class was constituted of all sexes. And as far as the industrial proletariat is concerned, Marx always considered it a subset of the working class, albeit the most important and essential force in the working class struggle.
Having said this we also wish to highlight another tacit misunderstanding of Paresh, that Marxism is just about Marx and for that matter what other great Marxist leaders have to say. In reality, Marxism is a summation of different experiences of the working class in its conflict with capital. It is a synthesized articulation of the concrete. This synthesized articulation was used by Marx in philosophical debates (German Ideology, Theses on Feuerbach), in the critique of political economy (Ricardo), in debates on socialism (Proudhon), and in debates on political forms (Eighteen Brumaire, Civil War in France, Critique of Gotha Program). This synthesized summation was continued and applied by different leaders of the international proletarian movement as well as by numerous militant activists in the movement.
Moving on, in his own piece, Paresh bestows the working class position as a whole onto some identities, especially students. Though Paresh many times concedes (here and there) that TENDENCY has some relationship with class POSITION, in his endeavour to apply the epithet of working class on students as a whole, he ultimately detaches tendency from class position. He comes to define tendency as “control on one’s life”, which almost becomes a quasi-behaviourist analysis of stimulus response. To quote him further on this, “in some [students] the petty bourgeois tendency is stronger while in others it is weaker and this varies in proportion to the degree of control an individual has over his/her life.” Having achieved this abstraction Paresh goes onto provide a solution to the thorny question of consciousness. To quote him, “a class conscious student would see herself/himself as a member of the working class and in that will leave behind determinations like prehistory and family.” We really wonder why a class conscious student belonging to a petty bourgeois class position will not develop a petty bourgeois class consciousness! Some (not Paresh) have even come to argue that the petty bourgeoisie can be de-classed and a different consciousness can be imputed in them. Indeed, these two positions might look dissimilar, but they do have kin affinities because both positions tendentially make class position unimportant for one’s consciousness.
We also wonder what the operative part of such analysis could be. One possible form that comes to our mind is the whole notion of “Campus Democracy” (supported by many Left liberals and ‘Left’ organizations on campus), which is achieved through struggles of students, teachers and other staff members to control the university (more on this point in section 5). We cannot actually be sure of whether this analysis is based on the summation of any past or contemporary, concrete experiment in student politics. Let us take the example of the most radical student movement of all time, i.e., the 1968 French student revolt. Many in their nostalgic account of this movement fail to identify the core experiment of the movement—one that should be generalized. The real essence of this movement is best projected in the pamphlet titled, THE MARCH 22nd MOVEMENT, which identified the demand to ‘Defend the common interest of all students’, as illusionary. This essence can also be extracted from statements made by some of its leaders. For example, one of the most radical French student leaders, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in an interview taken by Jean-Paul Sartre, argued that students’ seats in hostels (Cites) should be given to workers and apprentices, and that “well to do students in law and science-po go elsewhere”. Again in his interview to Herve Bourges, he vehemently asserted, “I do not believe in student unity for there are no objective interests common to all students”. In response to another question in the interview he criticized UNEF (considered a Left wing formation), for representing the bourgeoisie, and called it a pseudo mass movement because it did not represent real demands and aspirations of working class students. Cohn-Bendit clearly made a distinction between the November strikes and the Nanterre movement which emerged from the Nanterre campus located outside Paris, i.e. amongst the neighbouring slums. The students here were socially divided between affluent students from the wealthy quarters of Paris and students from working class backgrounds. So, ultimately, inheriting what can be termed the best of the 1968 legacy, we want to assert that the relationship between students and class struggle could take two forms: (i) working class students aligning with rest of the working class outside university campuses; and (ii) working class students uniting against the provision of facilities to a few privileged students, and thereby, demanding for the provision of these facilities to all.
Further we believe the views presented by Paresh stem from a particular (mis)understanding of the working class position and the ontological configuration of identities. This understanding of class is based on a highly problematic understanding of capitalism itself, i.e. of capitalism as a carceral continuum. Due to this conceptualization of capitalism in Foucaultian terms, an identity such as ‘students’ becomes a working class position. This is reflected in expressions such as students being monitored/regimentalized or losing the right to self-determinism—an incarceration considered emblematic of the working class position. It is also present in expressions such as “the working class is that section of people on which [sic] work is imposed”, and this working class with its continuum of subjectivity can be found “beyond localized time and space”. In these terms, the ancient slave, medieval serf and peasantry, i.e. on whomsoever work is imposed, is the working class! Clearly, people who argue from such positions, such as Paresh, actually forget the historicity of the modern working class. Marx clearly identified the working class as distinct from other laboring masses both in terms of time and space. In this regard he identified the working class as a section devoid of property (means of production), and hence, “free”/compelled to sell its labour power.
If we extend the logic of Paresh’s arguments, we will see that they assume that an identity such as ‘students’ is not divided amongst several class positions, but is the working class position itself. To highlight the danger of holding onto such a position we would like to draw immediate attention to the fact that such an “axiom” (if applicable) would apply even to capitalists. After all, capitalists too are bound by social etiquettes of the time and also complain of being caged in by prevailing social norms. In this regard do we attribute to them the working class position as well? We do not, and know that you too will agree to the same.
We suspect that a certain petty bourgeois discomfort with the formidable logic of Marxism, in particular, its notion of generalization, is the cause of this “status”/position borrowing. Rather than taking to the working class/proletarian position (in terms of tying one’s own petty bourgeois class interests with the interests of the working class), so as to resolve the petty bourgeois question, certain individuals from the petty bourgeois class have conveniently started calling themselves working class. Marxism as a politics and as a science has never encouraged the concealment or displacement of one’s class position, but has, on the contrary, called for the engagement with one’s class position in the process of class struggle. In other words, Marxism has always called a spade a spade when identifying different class positions and their articulation within different identities. According to Marxism, the petty bourgeois question can only be resolved on the basis of an engagement with one’s petty bourgeois class position in alignment with that of the working class position. The petty bourgeois question cannot be resolved by presuming a working class position itself.
What do we mean by the petty bourgeois question? Well, we believe it is best demonstrated in recent Bollywood movies like Three Idiots and Udaan. What comes across through this rather powerful medium is the present plight of the petty bourgeoisie, i.e. growing competition for limited facilities provided by capitalism, and the increasing mechanization of life due to ever growing demands of the system in place. At this historical conjuncture, the need of the hour is not to equate mechanization of petty bourgeois life with the working class position, but to show the petty bourgeoisie how their OPPRESSION ties up with the working class’s EXPLOITATION. Let us take the example of the medical profession for which youth from petty bourgeois families aspire for in large numbers. Indeed most doctors (mostly, self employed professionals) are from petty bourgeois backgrounds. However, to become doctors, these youth have to undergo cut-throat competition. This is because capitalism as a system does not provide healthcare to the majority of people, especially the working class considering its limited buying power. As a result, it makes provisions for limited number of medical educational institutes and jobs in medical institutions. And it is for these limited seats and jobs that petty bourgeois youth are forced to compete. In this context, the working class’s struggle for the provision of more healthcare facilities and investment in the social sector as a whole, indirectly benefits petty bourgeois youth aspiring to be doctors. It creates the condition for the creation of more medical educational institutes (more seats, hence less competition), as well as more hospitals (hence, more jobs). The process, of course, leads to a less mechanized way of life for youth aspiring for such employment. In a crucial way, it will prevent the growing mechanization of children’s lives, who, in the current scenario, lose their youth under the burden of studies/competition, and who have increasingly come to feel they have lost the right to self-determination.
In this context, the objective interest of this petty bourgeois section lies not in identifying itself as working class. Instead its objective interest lies in uniting with the emancipatory politics of the working class. Such unity is feasible and desirable because in the process of fighting for its own liberation the working class can build a system, annihilating class society, in which other sections of society will have freed and equal access to opportunities and resources.
Returning to the specific question of the working class position and the ontological configuration of identities, we would like to reiterate that it is wrong to perceive different identities as a subset of the working class. Rather than conceptualizing identities (woman, student, Dalit, OBC, Black, delinquents, etc.) as momentary congealments of the working class position, it is important to read them as multiclass entities—as sites of struggle in which contradictory class positions are in conflict with each other. The latter is the precise way in which Marxism conceptualizes identities. This is because it realizes that the different identities in existence have different ontological depths. For example, Marxism believes that the identity ‘woman’ is not the same as another identity, say that of ‘Dalit’, and that the two identities encompass a somewhat different (in terms of degree, etc.), conflict of varied class positions within them. Indeed, unlike the popular perception of Marxism as an epistemology, Marxism is the synthesis of multiple epistemologies that extract experiences emanating from different sites of struggle, i.e. from different identities. By extracting these varied experiences it actively unites the working class/proletarian experience (collective will of the class) that is spread across the different identities (just like other class positions are).
Having said this, let us trace the larger theoretical source of such analysis of identities vis-à-vis the working class position. The theoretical source from which Paresh’s arguments about students as workers emerge, is Negrian clap trap based on the mixing up of Foucault with Marx. In other words, such views stem from earlier endeavours to re-ontologize Marxism, i.e., going beyond Marx with Marx. Negri carries to the extreme the ideas of Raniero Panzieri and Mario Tronti (great leaders of the Italian working class movement), in particular, their analysis of the political class composition of workers. For Negri, class composition is not just based on determinations like labour power as variable capital, but also on determinations like the historical and social level of labour power’s reproduction. In other words, for him, determination of class composition should include, together with the wage structure, other structures that reproduce labour power.
Marx made a distinction between labour forms which are heterogeneous and take place in different concrete conditions. Hence, concrete labour. But these different heterogeneous labour forms, in capitalism, are commensurate at the level of value they produce, expressed in the price of the commodity at a given equilibrium level. Hence, abstract labour. Abstract labour expresses, therefore, certain relations of production, i.e. relations between producers of commodities and the capitalists who own the means of production and appropriate the surplus value created by labour. For Marx this dual character of labour (abstract and concrete labour) is conditioned on the skewed property relationship which forces a worker to work for a capitalist. Thus, in capitalism concrete labour forms a dialectical unity with abstract labour. Outside the relationship of production this duality cannot exist. Hence, for Marx, destroying the property relations is the precondition for liberation of labour from a condition where one person’s labour becomes another person’s profit.
Negri calls this conceptual distinction a qualitative and quantitative distinction. In this context, he argues that the theory of value, as a form of equilibrium, seizes to have any remaining validity in our time. Negri takes a clear cut Morishimite position. To quote Morishima “…as soon as heterogeneity of labour is allowed for, the theory of value is seen to conflict with Marx’s law of equalization of the rate of exploitation through society, unless the different sorts of labour are reduced to homogenous abstract human labour in proportion to their wage rates, ” (Marx’s Economics). Negri considers Marx’s labour theory of value simply as the refining of concepts developed by his contemporaries. He argues that there is another conception of labour theory of value present in Marx’s work (Grundrisse), which according to him departs radically from capitalist theories and Marxist theories, and focuses not on capitalist processes of valorization, but rather on the processes of labour’s self-valorization. To quote him further “Marx considered the value of labour not as a figure of equilibrium but as an antagonistic figure, as a subject of the dynamic rupture of the system. The concept of labour power is thus considered as valorizing element of production, relatively independent of the functioning of the capitalist law of value…This means that although in the first theory value was fixed in the structures of capital, in this second theory labour and value are both variable elements.” Having freed labour from the distinctively exploitative relationship to capital in the circuit of capital self valorization, Negri reduces Capital to an elementary expression of command. For him changing the property relationship within which the labour process takes place is no longer relevant. Again to quote him, “the notion of foundational war of all against all is based on an economy of private property and scarce resources. Material property, such as land or water or a car, cannot be in two places at once: my having and using it negates your having and using it. Immaterial property, however, such as an idea or image or a form of communication is infinitely reproducible…Some resources do remain scarce today, but many, in fact, particularly the newest elements of the economy, do not operate on a logic of scarcity,” (Multitude). The clear cut meaning to be drawn from this is that resources are scarce which is why they are owned by capitalists, but the newest elements of the economy such as immaterial property can be owned by anyone for self-valorization of one’s labour.
Again to quote him extensively, “The most important general phenomenon of the transformation of labour that we have witnessed in recent years is the passage toward what we call the factory-society. The factory can no longer be conceived as the paradigmatic site or the concentration of labour and production; laboring processes have moved outside the factory walls to invest the entire society. In other words, the apparent decline of the factory as the site of production does not mean a decline in the regime of and discipline of factory production, but means rather it is no longer limited to a particular site in society. It has insinuated itself throughout all forms of social production, spreading like a virus. All of society is now permeated through and through with the regime of the factory, that is, with the rules of the specifically capitalist relations of production. In this light, a series of Marxian distinctions need to be reviewed and reconsidered. For example, in the factory society the traditional conceptual distinction between productive and unproductive labour and between production and reproduction, which even in other periods had dubious validity, should today be considered defunct,” (Labour of Dionysius).
Having detached his ontology of labour from the circuit of capital’s self-valorization and its actualization in circulation, Negri comes to posit that a working class subjectivity for autonomy and self creation is now expressed in a new class composition. In his chronology of capitalism’s development there emerge, (i) Mass workers: all workers working for different capitalists spread over different junctures in the supply chain; (ii) the Collective worker: anyone on whom work is being imposed, and basically, anyone who helps reproduce labour power, (whether within or outside the circuit of capital accumulation and the labour process, such as women doing domestic labour, peasants, students, self-employed professionals, etc.). In a recent avatar, with increasing detachment from the existing working class movement, Negri, once a working class militant, has now come to sermonize from his position as a university democrat. His earlier collective worker has now metamorphosed into “multitude”, and hence, signifying that whomsoever is rejecting work and any control on their life, ARE CREATING a new world—his communism within capitalism (!).
Clearly, Negrian analysis includes playing with (distorting) certain key Marxist categories of analysis and arguments in the attempt to establish the petty bourgeois section (our term)/immaterial labour (his term—which itself is divided in petty bourgeois and worker), as the pivotal force in contemporary times. Of course, there will be an acceptance of the tangible presence of agricultural and industrial labour. To quote Negri, “Agricultural labour remains…dominant in quantitative terms, and industrial labour has not declined in terms of numbers globally. Immaterial labour constitutes a minority of global, and it is concentrated in some of the dominant regions of the globe. Our claim, rather, is that immaterial labour has become hegemonic in qualitative terms,” (Multitude); [emphasis in original]. By extension, this analysis means that the fight against capitalism is not against the property relationship within which the dual character of labour emerges, but SIMPLY AGAINST the daily transformation of our doing/our activities into abstract labour. Furthermore, only this so called hegemonic immaterial labour is in the position to do this. This model is best propagated by John Holloway in his article “Doing In-Against-and-Beyond Labour”. To quote Holloway, “…it is not just in the workplace: life itself is a constant struggle to break through the connections forced by abstract labour to create other sorts of social relations: when we refuse to go to work so that we can stay and play with the children, when we read (or write) an article like this, when we choose to do something not because it will bring us money but just because we enjoy it or consider it important. All the time we oppose use value to value, concrete doing to abstract labour. It is from these revolts of every day resistance, and not from the struggles of activists or parties that we must pose the question of the possibility of ceasing to create capitalism and creating a different sort of society.”
Of course, we sincerely doubt that Paresh is succumbing fully to such views. However, what we wish to point out is that a road somewhat half traveled with Negri, is a grave mistake for those committed to Marxism. If all the identities have simply entered into the reproduction structure of labour power then we can claim, based on this understanding, that all identities are equally subordinated to the rule of capital. And this is precisely what Paresh has almost come to argue. To quote him from his article, “Through and Beyond: Identities and Class Struggle”: “the problem of identities is the way it exists in the current conjuncture…all equally [emphasis added] subordinated to the rule of capital”.
However, contrary to Paresh’s analysis, for Marxism identities are not simply part of the whole (in the sense that they seamlessly flow into the whole, i.e. the working class position), but “parts” divided amongst different classes (Dalits, peasants, women etc. are all divided amongst different classes). In other words, all these identities cannot be axiomatically assumed to be part of the working class and hence, equally subordinated to the rule of capital. They should, instead, be seen as products of heterogeneous forms of labour and their alignment with different moments of capital. To illustrate this it is best to talk in terms of some concrete examples that reveal the multiple class positions present in identities and how these positions articulate themselves in a given social reality. Let us begin with the identity ‘peasant’ and how class differentiations within it are being overlooked by certain left organizations, in particular, Maoist organizations. Indeed, eliding the issue of class differentiation within the peasantry (akin to overlooking class differentiation within students) has been a perpetual problem in the Indian communist movement. Whenever movements have emerged and then intensified, communist organizations have often failed to address the issue of class divisions within the peasantry, thereby allowing rich peasants to curb the radical potential of such movements. As a result of this class collaborationist position, movements that are at junctures which can lead to further unfolding of radical and transformative politics, are withdrawn or die a natural death under the hegemony and dominance of rich peasants. It is this precise class collaborationist position vis-à-vis peasant politics that can be identified as revisionism in the Indian communist movement. Some details of this unfortunate process are discussed below.
At present, in many parts of India we can see Maoist politics at work. The problem with this politics (as highlighted by us on several platforms) is its promotion of a conglomeration/alliance between peasants (ignoring the class differentiation within), regional bourgeoisie (considered as national bourgeoisie vis-à-vis the wrongly ascertained All-India bourgeoisie/big bourgeoisie as comprador and bureaucratic bourgeoisie), petty bourgeoisie (itself divided tendentially into polarizing class processes), and the working class. The crux of our argument is that this form of alliance amounts to singing old songs in new times. This is because since the time of 1947 (the “transfer of power”) the Indian bourgeoisie has come on its own after successfully hegemonizing the Indian national liberation struggle. Following this, in the period of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, heightened conflicts emerged between the different sections of the Indian bourgeoisie under the aegis of the federal form of state. By this time a rank of regional bourgeoisie had emerged in stiff opposition to the big/All India bourgeoisie. The roots of the regional bourgeoisie lay in the transformation of property forms held by the rank of rich peasants. For example, after gradually acquiring property owned by poor peasants, the class of rich peasants moved onto diversifying their capital. No longer did they remain merely rich peasants but became petrol pump/cinema hall owners or entered the lucrative business of transportation, hardware, construction, etc. In this context one can say the tumultuous years post Independence were characterized by struggles based on competitive claims of different moments in the being and becoming of India’s capitalist class. Ironically, many a time Communists wrongly identified these struggles (constitutive of both friend and enemy classes), and formed united-fronts with them.
India’s Independence from colonial rule was based firmly on a multi-class alliance. Post this historical conjuncture, Communists came to make several mistakes while reading crucial moments in the process of class. Their misreading of historical moments for what they were, led them to make a series of dangerous alliances with the Congress, etc. Many such alliances led to the erosion of the Communist Party’s support base in constituencies such as those of the depressed classes. In reaction to the growing inertia and revisionism within the Communist movement, the militant Naxalbari struggle emerged. This militant struggle spread like fire and took the form of a prolonged movement, which actively sought to strengthen the anti-revisionist forces in the Communist movement. To coordinate the anti-revisionist tendency in the Communist movement a front called the All India Coordination Committee for Communist Revolutionaries (A.I.C.C.C.R.) was formed. Unfortunately, this body was dissolved. In its place emerged the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) which was based on a party program that continued to project the Democratic Revolution as communist strategy. Splinter groups that have subsequently emerged follow some form or the other of this party program. One can say that by deferring the Socialist Revolution the progeny of the Naxalite movement are actually devouring their mother (i.e., the militancy thrown up again and again by dispossessed tribals and agrarian labour).
Take, for example, the Telangana movement in which two tendencies prevailed; one, which sought to keep the alliance intact by neutralizing the claims of agrarian workers who were key participants in the movement, and two, which sought to continue the struggle based on agrarian workers demands (1). The Communist Party came under the sway of the former, and the Telengana movement was withdrawn, hence, firmly establishing the Party (its legitimacy, etc.) on the rank of rich peasants. Post this maneuver the Communist Party came to be identified as the party of Kamma and Reddy—these being the two castes to which rich peasants (and later the regional bourgeoisie) belonged. Jokes circulating in the Dalit circle such as, “he is a Kama-Red” etc., reflect this unfortunate fact. Furthermore, if we trace the history of many rich peasant families involved in the early phase of the Telengana movement, we will find that many were transformed into the regional bourgeoisie. For example, the owner of one of the biggest drug companies in the world today, i.e., Dr. Reddy, hails from a rich peasant background. Similarly, the owners of Nagarjuna, a construction company, are from rich peasant families. They started out by outbidding Birla for the construction of the Nagarjuna Dam and have subsequently become one of the biggest construction companies in the world with several projects in war ridden Iraq and Afghanistan. Ramji Rao is also a notable example. His family participated in the Telengana movement, and he himself, was a state committee member of the CPI (later joined NT Rama Rao). Interestingly, he is now the owner of a 2000 acre film city—the biggest film city in the world!
Another historical blunder comes to mind. This time we speak of Maharashtra and the linguistic struggle that emerged in the early 1960s. The Communist Party supported the movement, and in fact, many workers became martyrs for the movement under the illusion that they were fighting for “Workers’ Raj”. In reality, the movement was in the hegemony of the emerging Maratha regional bourgeoisie/rich peasantry which was opposed to the older Marwari-Gujrati bourgeoisie based in the ‘Maharashtra’ region. All the working class got in return for their martyrdom was betrayal, embodied most cruelly in the celebration of Maharashtra Day on May Day, i.e. May 1st.
Indeed, if 1947 was the tragedy, the compromise in the Telangana movement was a farce. Similarly, the CPI-ML party program and its continuation are farcical repetitions where revolutionary zeal emanating from dispossessed tribals and agrarian workers are galvanized to proclaim deferment of the socialist revolution, and hence, to keep the form of Indian revolution perpetually at the democratic stage.
In this context, we believe that Maoists in India are communists only at a nascent stage of their struggle, i.e. when they begin to emerge from the struggles of dispossessed tribals and agrarian workers. We say this because once their influence in a region grows (i.e., with the formation of ‘liberated zones’), they come to make dangerous alliances with regional elites, and their politics increasingly fails to engage with differentiation present within the tribal and peasant population. It is a fact that the tribal population, for example, is not a homogenous group as often projected by Maoists. Tribal elites ally with the private business sector and become stakeholders in the lucrative forest-goods trade, or become contractors /transporters /moneylenders /suppliers of essential commodities in the region. In pursuing their business these tribal elites do not hesitate in exploiting their poorer tribal ‘brethren’. Similarly, rich peasants in Maoist-influenced regions, rake in significant profits through poppy cultivation, etc. They too openly exploit agrarian labour and poorer tribals employed by them. Though we as a tendency in the larger Left movement will always stand by the proletarian content in the Maoist movement, (and hence, oppose any state repression against them), we continue to criticize their class collaborationist line with respect to enemy classes (unity and struggle). Thus, as argued in this discussion on Maoist/peasant question, taking any sociological entity or identity as homogenous and then constituting a united front, leads to neutralization of the working class position and decimation of the movement’s radical potential.
4. Detailing the strategy and tactics of United Front
This brings us to the very important question of strategy and tactics of United Front. United Front is crucial for the working class movement because it ensures unity between different sections of workers spread over different identities, and also because it unites the working class with other oppressed sections in society. Although United Front ensures the working class is not isolated in its struggle against the rule of capital, it prevents the neutralization of the working class’s position, and hence, keeps intact the foundational logic of the progressive movement (i.e. the impulse of going beyond the system). We believe the dialectics of certain entities determine the form of United Front. These entities are: geopolitical formations (agrarian, forest, urban, slums, factories, universities, etc.); class (rich peasants, small peasants, agrarian workers, tribal contractors, dispossessed tribals, industrial and commercial capitalists, rentier petty bourgeoisie, slum proletariat, workers); different demands and tendencies; and different forms of politics. It is only through concrete analysis of the dialectical process of these entities that we can establish what form of United Front is Rational, Desirable and Feasible. No abstract and ahistorical generalization on the form of United Front and the participation of Communists in it is productive. Having said this, certain general features of any United Front can be summed up and synthesized in practices which we undertake, using, of course, the past experiences of the Communist movement. In the muddy history of United Front its formal conceptualization by the Comintern Congress of 1921 is often lost. Its essence is best retrieved from the report of this Congress in which it is conceptualized as maneuver designed to build unity between workers, given the historical context of the time. According to the Comintern Congress, United Front stood for the minority of communists trying to win over the majority of non-revolutionary workers (2). Later the basic thrust and spirit of United Front was applied by the Comintern to resolve the question of national liberation/nationalities, race, etc. According to its principles, communist workers were to ally with non-revolutionary workers and other sections of society in struggle against oppression, keeping their independence intact. So, the unity could not be based on the neutralization of one’s position. In other words, autonomy of action and will was emphasized. Furthermore, it was argued that with the spread of the working class will amongst non-revolutionary workers, communists would be in the position to expose to the workers the hollowness of non-revolutionary organizations that would obviously rebel against activities embodying the working class will.
Following the Comintern Congress, the principles of United Front found their way into many struggles as well as theses on the combined struggle of the working class and other classes in society (see Roy-Lenin Thesis on Nationality Question, the Dimitrov thesis of 1934-35 where the concept of popular/national front is discussed, Blum Thesis, National Front Thesis by Ho-Chi Min, etc.). In China the first United Front was formed between 1924 and 1927, and was based on the alliance of KMT and CPC. In 1937 the second United Front was formed between the KMT and CPC, which lasted till 1943. From the Second United Front (of KMT and CPC) many insights can be drawn regarding the Chinese communist strategy; many of which are applicable today and should be generalized. The Second United Front was based firmly on the basic thrust and spirit of the Communist International, and thereby, a Leninist position. As a result the Second United Front was based on the expansive hegemony of the proletariat and was characterized by endeavours to continuously work amongst the masses so as to wean them away from the enemy’s fold.
In this rich history of varied experiments with United Front, the so called Gramscian position is often picked up and emphasized. Gramsci’s writings were the product of a particular historical conjuncture, and were composed at a time when he identified the Southern question as the key problem of revolution in Italy. The whole question was centered on how to make the national-popular come on its own. According to Gramsci the failure of the ‘national-popular’ to come on its own amounted to the bourgeoisie winning over the petty bourgeoisie/peasantry. This failure of national popular or the new nation state (after the unification of Italy) was the result of a passive revolution based on the mass of peasantry giving only a passive and limited consent to a new political order. This limited consent of the peasantry led to a weak basis for a new political order, resulting in the Italian Risorgimento which relied increasingly on force. In this context, Gramsci defined as the special historical project of the proletariat, the helping of the nation to come on its own and the re-articulating of the demands and aspirations of the peasantry. With this project in hand the proletariat would come to form a new historical bloc based on continuous endeavours to win the heart and mind of the peasantry (also known as a war of position that came before a war of movement, or frontal attack). Unfortunately, Gramsci’s position on related practices led him to support National Socialism (Mussolini). In fact, precisely because there are fragmentary and inconclusive statements in Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks about the extent to which working class hegemony can or must be developed before state power is transformed; his views have since then often been used to propel social democratic trends like Eurocommunism. Nevertheless, (leaving aside his momentary lapses-support for Mussolini and his appropriation by Eurocommunism), for Gramsci the central concern for the United Front was the weaning away of the petty bourgeois class/peasantry from the clutches of the bourgeoisie into the fold of the communist working class movement. (In this way Gramsci remained within the overall tradition of the early Communist International)
Unfortunately, Gramsci’s position, once detached from its concern for the working class movement, is often translated into different kinds of alliance building (Rainbow Coalition, etc.) in which different sections are sought to be won over by neutralizing one’s own demands. In other words, to resolve the antagonism that comes with alliance building, the neutralization of one’s own position is actively pursued. The so called Gramscian position has also been translated into a second form of alliance, i.e. the so called Democratic Alliance. This form of alliance building is based not on the neutralization of one’s demands but on the notion of equivalence of dis/content. An excellent example comes to mind—students are being evicted, so are basti people, and hence, the two can unite. In fact, it is assumed that wider the chain of equivalence, the wider the democratic alliance, and hence, the wider the collective built. However, the problem with such a position lies precisely in its assumption that equivalence in content (quantity) means the equivalence in form (quality). In reality an engagement with the form in which discontent exists in different sites/demands is very important; otherwise a de-materialized so called dialectics will make us believe that a certain level of discontent (quantity) is translatable into qualitatively different forms of articulation. To prove this let us draw on immediate events/incidents before us. Students have been evicted from college hostels in the wake of the Commonwealth Games, yet despite their obvious discontent they have not come forward to stop evictions taking place in other parts of the city (according to the golden rule of equivalence of discontent, they should have). Similarly, more the eviction of students, the more students should have aligned with others evicted. However, this has not happened either. Indeed, evicted students do not see an equivalence in the eviction of slum dwellers. The reason for this is the material constraints created by the complexities of varied class positions. We draw an analogy to elucidate how material constraints exist on the dialectical flow of one “part” into the rest of the whole: A small cat when it grows will become a big cat that meows and not a lion that roars.
The third form of alliance building would be the Leninist position, which is based on expansive hegemony of the working class. According to this position, the expansive hegemony of the working class can only be forged in the alliance by one medium, i.e. uniting of the different sections of workers scattered across different identities. It is the ability to unite heterogeneous labour forms that allows for the emergence of collective will (communist subjectivity). The highest development in the form of this collective will is embodied in Communist parties, whereas in its lowest level of development it is embodied in the communist subjectivity present in individuals, small organizations etc. So, it is only when this medium is acquired that we can make a successful alliance with other oppressed sections in society. For the sake of elucidation we refer to communist organizations’ political work amongst the Dalit community.
As an organization KYS is sensitive to the fact that ‘Dalit’ is an identity divided between a petty bourgeois class position and a working class position. In fact, we see the identity of Dalit as an articulation of United Front. Within this United Front, either the working class’ expansive hegemony can exist or the petty bourgeoisie’s expansive hegemony can exist. Currently, it is the latter that is in force. In the case of the petty bourgeoisie, the understanding of Dalit identity is based on the persistence of the identity across time and space. This position is best articulated by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (see ‘Note by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on the Depressed Classes’, in Indian Franchise Committee, Vo.I, Calcutta, 1932, pp 202-11). In this piece Ambedkar argued against using any economic criterion for defining the depressed classes, citing examples of many well off persons amongst untouchables. Simultaneously, he argued against the universal voting right saying that the so-called better off amongst the untouchables would equally represent the poorer untouchables. Interestingly, due to the retention of the property qualification only 3.56 percent of untouchables were given voting rights in Bombay Presidency. Even today, the myth of representational politics is being kept alive within the Dalit community which is best projected in slogans such as “DM se CM, CM se PM!” etc. In reality, despite Dalit MLAs, MPs and CMs coming into existence, the material social conditions of majority Dalits remain the same.
Apart from the issue of voting rights we can see petty bourgeois hegemony articulate itself within reservation and the labour market. By demanding proportionate reservation the petty bourgeois section of the Dalit community has created ample space for its own upward mobility, and none for the working class segment of this community (who are in the majority). For example, the crème de la crème of the Dalit community are the first to pick up the few government jobs reserved for Scheduled Castes (i.e., according to the principle of proportion). In no way does their upward mobility in the labour market uplift the conditions of the majority Dalits, i.e. working class Dalits, who to this day toil on other people’s fields or do back breaking and degrading work like manual scavenging. Again, at the level of education, reservation works in the favour of this petty bourgeois section. The fifteen percent reservation provided to Scheduled Caste (SC) students in government institutes for higher education works in the following way: out of every hundred seats, fifteen are reserved for SC students, and for these fifteen seats both petty bourgeois and working class Dalits are made to compete. Considering that the total number of Dalits who seek admission is always greater than the number of seats, the reserved seats end up being distributed according to ‘merit’. In this context the seats go to Dalits from the petty bourgeois class since they have had access to better schooling etc., and hence, are more ‘meritorious’.
In opposition to this expansive hegemony of the petty bourgeoisie is the work of Communist organizations. In the debate on franchise, for example, the Communist Party of India argued vociferously from the proletarian position. Communist leader Ranadive argued that all Dalits should be allowed to vote, and at a particular historical conjuncture even supported separate electorates. Ranadive openly criticized the representational form of politics supported by Ambedkar, and posited, instead, direct democracy to all people (with special provisions to the oppressed section having specific requirements). Communists also worked extensively within caste associations of the time such as the Mahar Samaj Sewa Sangh, thereby, strengthening endeavours of the Dalit movement to fight casteism prevalent at cultural and social levels. Joint teams, comprising of both “upper” castes and “untouchables”, were consciously sent to the anti-caste movement’s various sites of struggle (the Nasik Temple Satyagraha, etc.). It is also a fact that to unite the working class movement against casteism, communist trade unions made many individuals from “untouchable” castes the leaders of Mill Committees, and also, Presidents of All-India Conferences (Comrade Bhise, who was made President of the All India Textile Workers’ Conference, is an important example). In this regard, Communists also fought against the exclusion of “untouchable” castes from certain jobs. For example, during the 1928 general strike (the first general strike to be led by Communists) they demanded that Dalits be employed in the weaving department of textile mills across Bombay. Communist organizations also invested in and promoted individuals from the Dalit movement, who later became cultural icons of the Communist movement. The strategy of the Communist movement (embodied in the several tactics mentioned above), was tremendously successful in weaning away many Dalit leaders and activists from the folds of the petty bourgeois dominated Dalit movement. Indeed it was these Dalit communist leaders who led many landmark anti-caste struggles. For the record, it was Comrade R.B. More’s efforts which led to Dr. Ambedkar’s participation in the Mahar Satyagraha. R.B. More went onto join the Communist Party of India and represented a formidable link between the Dalit and Communist movement.
Similarly, in today’s context, we as a Communist youth organization actively send joint teams to protests against caste atrocities. To unite working class youth against casteism it consciously promotes leaders from Dalit working class backgrounds. This is why both its Delhi and Haryana state committees are headed by Dalit youth from families of agrarian workers. In the University context, the organization has been arguing for a change in the form in which reservation is implemented. By raising this particular demand on several platforms (including those hegemonized by the petty bourgeois class of Dalits), as well as through its neighbourhood work in working class colonies, KYS has constantly sought to expose the class divisions within the Dalit community. This strategy stems from the fact that its cadre base comes from working class youth.
Indeed, we are the only Left organization in Delhi University (DU) that invests considerable energy/resources (in terms of the number of cadre mobilized, monetary funds spent, etc.) in the admission process of SC/ST students. In fact, we are the only Left organization which remains available to Dalit students from day one of the registration process to the last day of the counseling session. Our demand for a different form of reservation’s implementation stems from the detailed observations we have made during this admission process (in particular, the exclusion of Dalit working class students). Considering the limited seats made available to Dalit students, we have found that most working class Dalits, i.e. children of agrarian labourers who come from neighbouring states like Haryana, Western U.P. and Rajasthan, are denied admission to DU. In this context we have come to demand two things:
i) That reservation should be modeled on a roster system, according to which seats are first allotted to working class Dalit students from government schools.
ii) That there should be an overall increase in the number of seats provided to Dalit students, and to those from the general category.
While the former demand is an important step in revealing the immediate tension between the two classes present in the Dalit community, the latter is a crucial step for building organization work/influence amongst the (discontent) working class segment present in upper castes as well (3). The latter demand helps the organization to expose the hollowness of upper caste pride as well as the lack of unity within upper castes due to the presence of class divisions within them. The synthesis of these two maneuvers not only helps build a successful anti-caste front but also develops a potent opposition to capitalism embodied in capitalist education policies. While a Dalit front can be co-opted by the system, an anti-caste front constituted of Dalit and non-Dalit working class and its allies will go beyond, both, the caste system and capitalism.
Hence, the synthesis of the two maneuvers mentioned above is what amounts to the medium highlighted earlier, i.e. uniting of the different sections of workers scattered across different identities. It is this medium that subsequently paves the way for a successful alliance to be forged with progressive sections of the petty bourgeoisie, i.e. an alliance based on the expansive hegemony of the working class.
To prove how necessary such an alliance is even for the petty bourgeoisie, we would like to draw attention to the recent struggle of engineering students enrolled in Delhi Technical University (DTU), or the erstwhile, Delhi School of Engineering, of which many of our members were part of. Early this year, students of DTU carried out a prolonged and very militant struggle to prevent the conversion of their institution from a central government recognized institute to a state government recognized institute. For a month the students’ struggle persisted and they even ensured hundred percent boycott of the annual examination. However, despite its militancy the students’ struggle met with failure. The reason behind this defeat was the failure of the engineering students to ally their struggle with the concerns of other oppressed and exploited sections in society. The movement remained student/university specific, thereby, failing to become a trans-local one. When participating in the DTU struggle, KYS highlighted the need for the engineering students to reach out to government schools students in the city. We argued that for students aspiring for higher education, the devaluation of the engineering degree was a genuine concern, and that it was necessary to galvanize school students on the issue. The rationale behind approaching government school students (working class students, to be precise) was that they depended heavily on central government-subsidized higher education. With DTU becoming a state government run institution, a massive fee hike was introduced along with several other detrimental changes. Working class school students would have been a crucial fighting force against this gradual privatization of education. Their presence in the DTU struggle would have terrorized the Delhi and central government into accepting all the demands of the movement. Perhaps, if we had more extensive work in government schools in the city, we could have won over the DTU students regarding this strategy of alliance. Currently, our youth organization has work amongst only four government schools and some polytechnic institutes in Delhi.
Friends, this is precisely why we are concerned with the question of United Front, albeit with a notion of the hegemony principle. Indeed, we are concerned with the petty bourgeois question, and this is namely for two key reasons. Firstly, because we are not sectarian, we do not attempt to raise working class struggles in isolation. We obviously think that any isolationist stand will simply reduce working class militants into smaller sects/progressive clubs. Secondly, we realize the petty bourgeois section is being proletarianized gradually, which then creates possibilities for its mobilization either by the working class movement, or, by fascist forces (that seek to keep alive the hegemony of the bourgeoisie).
To talk in more concrete terms of the situation in universities like Delhi University (DU), we do recognize the north campus as a site of struggle, where ‘students’ as a sociological entity (within which different class positions are present) is constituted by administrative policies like cut-offs, funding for hostel facility only in certain colleges, the provision of limited number of seats in existing college hostels, the subsequent exclusion of a large number students from hostels, and thereby, the compulsion for them to live on rent. In this context, we see two concrete demands emerge, which, if given a proper political form by a Left organization, have tremendous potential. One of these demands is rent regulation in Delhi and the second is the demand for more hostels. The issue of rent regulation is a unifying factor for it unifies petty bourgeois students (living on rent in PGs) with working class students and their families who live on rent. From this unity, more hostels can also be demanded and fought for effectively. In the context of DU another pertinent issue emerges, i.e. the problem of fee hikes. This issue, unfortunately, has not been properly theorized and tapped on by many Left student groups. The fact that ‘Left’ student organizations have been unable to tap on the issue and mobilize effectively on it, is because they have made the target of this struggle (i) second and third year college students who are not affected by fee hikes (considering college administrations introduce such hikes for first year students), and are hence, least interested; (ii) first year students whose admission is confirmed on the basis that they pay the hiked fees, and are hence, more interested in “moving on”. Thus, the issue of fee hike is best raised amongst government school students or those who are going to join DU, and hence, have an objective interest in fighting for subsidized higher education. Our larger point is that the constituency of university struggles lies, both, in students enrolled in the university and those outside the university, i.e. school students. This has been KYS’s strategy with respect to Delhi University, and in concrete terms, we have been going to school students with the following demands: (i) abolition of the cut off system; ii) roll back of fee hikes in universities.
We hope this detailed exposition of our understanding on student-youth politics, clears any doubts about our political credibility and the feasibility of our political initiatives. Perhaps, for a distant observer our critique of UCD may have initially seemed liquidationalist in “sectarian” tenor. However, how can we be accused of liquidating a forum that was self-contradictory, and thereby, collapsed under its own weight? In that sense the purpose of triggering the debate was simply to show the fact that UCD had collapsed.
To straighten the record, once and for all, wish to reiterate that our position on UCD is based on the fact that UCD lacked spontaneity of form. If there was a chance for spontaneity in the form of UCD’s politics to emerge, i.e., if evicted students themselves had started a movement, or, participated in large numbers, then we would have definitely waited and continued to participate in the forum. Nothing of this kind happened. Some independent Left-leaning individuals and representatives of different organizations came together to form a JOINT FORUM/FRONT, which should not be conflated with United Front (4). This is a fact well brought out by a UCD member, Devangana, in a lengthy introspective mail. According to such accounts, even before the initial meetings in D-School, the contours of UCD were being fixed by a circuit of people familiar with each other. Considering this, we as participants, insisted that the constitutive logic of the forum be left open to further discussion and debate. Unfortunately, this intervention on our behalf was continually written off by a subset of UCD, and we quote them on this, “…basically the KYS saw itself as an advisory committee whose only role would be to teach us how to conduct ourselves…” The tenor of such comments are really like the old saying “Don’t just talk, do something!” In reality, the problem was not that KYS “was not doing something” (we were taking initiatives both inside and outside the forum, as everyone was free to do), but that we were challenging preset agendas of UCD and its goals and direction. Indeed, there were many who played an inactive role in UCD, and KYS was not one of them. We were identified to the contrary because in the process of actively participating, we were constantly questioning the preset contours of UCD. However, now that the edifice of UCD has collapsed and the “new” socialists are in disarray, there are many well intentioned individuals like Devangana who are hopeful of evolving a better strategy and building a new form of politics. In this context, what comes to mind is Mao’s motto, “Everything under heaven is in utter chaos; the situation is excellent”.
5. University Democracy or Going Beyond: A Contribution to the Critique of the University System
To sum up, we have been arguing that for student politics to become truly transformative (anti-systemic), it is imperative that Left organizations (and Left leaning individuals) address the class divisions present within the student body. It is only with consistent political work amongst working class students and working class youth (those who are not enrolled in universities) that organizations can build a stable and formidable base for a consistent anti-systemic movement. In this way, by connecting the university with the issues of youth excluded from it, organizations are building a unity which lasts despite the momentariness of student life and peculiarities of the university cycle. Further we have argued that without this political strategy, left organizations cannot build a base within non-working class students; the reason being that a form of politics which is devoid of working class students’ radicalism can only lead to partial (fleeting) radicalization of petty bourgeois students. As a result, it is only when a strong base has been created within working class students and youth that the issues of other students can be galvanized (forming United Fronts), effectively into an anti-systemic movement. In this context, we believe that perceiving university politics through the prism of campus democracy (something which all ‘Left’ organizations espouse to) is a self-defeating endeavour. In a polemical vein we have raised the following question: What ails university democrats? The answer: the disease is university (social) democracy itself.
Let us look more closely at the demand for campus democracy or democratic functioning in the university. As a demand it is present in many forms. We have those who argue that ‘democracy’ is a pertinent issue for all University youth, irrespective of class divisions within them. Thus, according to such formulations, campus democracy is a larger unifying demand with tremendous potential for building transformative politics. On the other hand, we have those who argue that students/university youth as workers have much to fight for against the current university system (internal assessment, regimented class programs, etc.). Here too the struggle for democratic functioning by university youth is considered an important and anti-systemic struggle. In other words, the operative part of this demand of campus democracy is the right of self-determinism, i.e., existing University students, teachers and other staff should have the right to run the University in ways they deem fit.
It is precisely here that the hollowness of campus democracy as a demand and as an agenda emerges. Why? Because campus democracy as an agenda is more Janus-faced than progressive. The call for ‘campus’ democracy is, after all, based on a minority of youth who make it to higher education. Needless to say, the inclusion of this minority that aspires for democracy is based on the exclusion of the majority of youth from the university system (embodied in the cut off system, continuous fee hikes, etc.). In many ways then campus democracy is based simply on the semblance of democracy. Drawing an analogy to the Greek republican tradition, one can say that campus democracy works in the very same way. Just as the Greeks built ‘democratic’ city states based on the division between citizens and slaves, university democrats and liberals of today are basing their university politics on the privileged few who make it to higher education. And just like the saying carved on the Greek academia’s portal, “only those who know geometry can enter”, university democrats and liberals of today are basically saying now that you have made it into the privileged inner circle, let us speak of democracy for us.
Apart from this the problem with campus democracy is also locatable in its emphasis. Its narrative and action plans are clearly based on questions of protocol. In other words, campus democracy’s emphasis is not on locating flaws in the system itself (capitalist education policies that exclude the majority from higher education), but in identifying secondary and contingent deviations such as corruption, violation of set procedure, lack of transparency, etc. Of course, these issues (of corruption, lack of transparency, etc.) can do very little when it comes to mobilization of university-youth. As pointed out by Naina in her last email, there is an obvious limitation to how much students can be radicalized using the demand for campus democracy. If the lifeline of campus democracy is the existing student population then there is a serious problem, for these people are not here to stay for long. Considering the university cycle, majority of students are here for a period of 3 to 5 years (the compulsion to work ensures that most do not have the staying power for further studies or research work), and by the time campus democracy as an issue can radicalize them (if it can), it is time for them to go. What then do we achieve if the base of our struggle itself is unstable?
It is a fact that this university cycle has become so engrained in the politics of ‘Left’ student organizations that now an instrumentalist notion of cadre building has developed within them. In other words, since students are enrolled in the university only for a limited period of time, ‘left’ organizations on campus seek to make their presence felt amongst them using the politics of spectacle. Student organizers have come to count their voting figures as the index of their success, which leads them to use (again and again) temporary political activities as a means to draw attention. The emphasis and political logic of these ‘left’ organizations are no longer based on long term plans for taking youth politics forward, but simply, about gathering electoral support or cadre building (which is very often based on little consciousness raising and ideological training). As a result of planning from one academic session to another, these organizations have failed to work intensively and consistently amongst working class students. This failure is embodied in the fact that despite their existence on campus, these ‘left’ organizations are unable to galvanize the support of working class students. Instead of being seen with ‘Left’ student organizations, working class students can be seen with ABVP goons and NSUI lumpens. Ironically, in the battles to save ‘campus democracy’ we are thrown against working class students (coming from peripheral colleges) who have sided with ABVP goons and NSUI lumpens. This happens because student organizations of the ruling class manipulate to their advantage, the discontent prevailing in working class students. They are successful in doing so because ‘left’ student organizations fail to identify the class discontent of these working class students, and hence, give this discontent a progressive form (and radical articulation). In this context, when working class students, (coming mostly from peripheral colleges but also from some north campus colleges of DU), attack us vehemently during brawls between ‘left’ student organizations and ABVP/NSUI; we must realize why they do so. It is because of an enmity stemming from their class position, which then ultimately translates into them despising ‘leftists’. Their enmity characterizes ‘leftists’ as “cool-daddy’s boys”, liberal, oddly dressed, long haired, persons (weirdos). Until we engage with their class discontent can we really wean them away from fascist forces? And can we win ‘the battle of democracy’ without them?
Indeed, the paradox is that campus democracy itself is not strong enough to save its own tenor from the onslaught of government policies. The problem is that it cannot stand on its own: something is missing in its edifice. We believe the missing link is the involvement of working class students and youth. As highlighted above with respect to the issue of fee hikes and the DTU students’ protest, struggles against the onslaught of capitalist education policies can only meet with success once such struggles spill out of the university. Since such policies affect working class youth the most, it is imperative that university students engage actively with class divisions within them, and persistently connect their oppression with concerns of working class youth who are denied admission to universities. If they do so the content as well as the form of university politics will drastically change, and indeed, change for the better. As long as students from petty bourgeois backgrounds are not exposed to the pull and push of the radicalized working class youth politics, they are liable to be co-opted by the ruling ideology and system in place. With a few relaxations here and there, with a few generous grants released now and then, with every small gesture of ‘democratic’ functioning, the prevailing education system can win over majority of petty bourgeois students. Even as we speak, it is doing precisely this. Thus, the petty bourgeois student’s militancy needs another axis for transformative politics to even take root. It needs another vision and it needs a different set of goals so as to take on the current education system. On allying with working class youth, petty bourgeois students will learn to question the very logic of the system in place (embodied in the principle of exclusion of the majority from education), rather than just raising issues of poor implementation, corruption, etc. They will learn that the working class is not only to be found in villages and slums, but within them and around them, and that victory lies in allying with working class issues.
Friends, let our struggles be based on the demand for going beyond empty notions of democracy. Let us, in other words, struggle both within and outside the university so that youth politics comes to be based on a constant linking of issues within the university with those outside (YET CONNECTED to) it.
(1) The latter tendency existed in another variant form, which supported the continuation of the movement on the basis of agrarian workers but called for a change in the methods pursued.
(2) Unfortunately, many times without a close reading of documents, the early Comintern’s endeavours as well as communist activities are wrongly identified as propagating “the praxis of the United Front (from above)”. If this had been the political approach of the Comintern, then, rather than a United Front it would have basically propagated the creation of joint fronts of leaders from different organizations. However, the involvement of the masses and the need to wean them away from bourgeois oppositional formations was the emphasis of the Comintern and its strategy of United Front.
(3) Interestingly, there is a third position on this issue of reservation, according to which reservation should neither be opposed nor supported. Instead, another measure, i.e. education for all, should be pursued. The problem with this position (and its abstract demand) is that it fails to tap on the specific dynamics of class conflict prevalent in different caste identities.
(4) UCD’s formation, at most, can be termed a United Front in proxy or a United Front from above which clearly lacked a mass bass. Considering the nature of the forum, it was imperative for participants who were Marxist, to ensure that the proletarian line was not diluted.