All posts by Aditya Nigam

Farewell Kalpana Mehta – Remembering a Feminist Activist

The following is a statement Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression  on the passing away of leading feminist activist Kalpana Mehta. This English version was earlier published in Mainstream Weekly.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) deeply mourns the passing away of Kalpana Mehta in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The loss of a fellow traveller and a comrade at a time when we are going through a massive public health crisis and continuous clampdown on the right to dissent through arrests and detention is hard to bear. Kalpana has been with WSS ever since its inception in 2009.

Having done B. Tech in Aeronautical Engineering from IIT, Kanpur she had left for the US to pursue a degree in MBA. She came back to India in 1976, as it happened with many other fellow Indians who returned in those times, when the country was reeling under the clampdown of the National Emergency imposed by the Congress-led government in power at the centre. Within a few years in trade union work, she became part of a vibrant and powerful political current that brought to light women’s oppression and subordination in society and the need to organize as women, which was becoming well nigh impossible in the left and socialist movements of those years. Her life and politics have thus been shaped by the emergence of the autonomous women’s movement in the late 70s and early 80s. Kalpana was a co-founder of the autonomous feminist collective Saheli Women’s Resource Centre that was set up in 1981; she continued to remain at the forefront of the women’s movement ever since. Read the full statement here.

अलविदा कल्‍पना मेहता – एक श्रद्धांजलि

विमन अगेन्स्ट सेक्शूअल वायलेंस एंड स्टेट रिप्रेशन’ (WSS)

की कल्पना मेहता को श्रद्धांजलि

‘विमन अगेन्स्ट सेक्शूअल वायलेंस एंड स्टेट रिप्रेशन’ (WSS) कल्पना मेहता के उनके निवास इंदौर, मध्य प्रदेश में निधन पर गहरा शोक व्यक्त करता है. एक ऐसे समय में जब हम व्यापक पैमाने पर अभूतपूर्व सार्वजनिक स्वास्थ्य संकट से गुजर रहे हैं और जब सत्ता द्वारा असहमति के अधिकार को लगातार बेरहमी से कुचला जा रहा है, हमारे बीच से एक हमसफ़र और कॉमरेड का चले जाना बेहद पीड़ादायक है. 2009 में, WSS की स्थापना के समय से ही कल्पना लगातार इसके साथ जुड़ी रहीं.

Continue reading अलविदा कल्‍पना मेहता – एक श्रद्धांजलि

Working Class Movement and ‘Sudden Death’ of the 1980s – Challenges For Rebuilding the Left II

 

Let us call it ‘sudden death’ football style – even though, strictly speaking, there was no ‘tie’. Yet, even the highly frayed but continued existence of the earlier Nehruvian legacy (our version of the welfare state) had provided a kind of buffer that had kept in place an intricate balance between labour and capital. The Nehruvian state was no ‘socialism’ but it did represent a ‘social contract’ of sorts that had kept the worst caprices of capital in check and provided a certain legitimacy to issues and demands of labour. The balance was always tilted in favour of capital but was a balance nevertheless. This is what some ideologues of the neoliberal dispensation that succeeded it continue calling socialism – for that gave them the legitimacy, in the post-Soviet 1990s, to institute the unbridled rule of corporate capital. In that sense, there was a tie – and neoliberalism was the tie-breaker.

Protest_Photo, Image New Indian Express

The defeat of working class politics in the 1980s is a story that remains to be told – at any rate, properly analyzed. There are of course, layers and layers to that story  and no single article or even a book can do justice to it but it is nevertheless worth looking at some aspects – not all of which may have been apparent to players involved at that time. But that is precisely why it is so important to look back, especially if we are interested in building a movement in the future, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Continue reading Working Class Movement and ‘Sudden Death’ of the 1980s – Challenges For Rebuilding the Left II

Crisis of Working Class Politics – Challenges for Rebuilding the Left

 

In this year of COVID19, the organized ‘working class’ movement completes a hundred years of its history. It was on October 31 1920, that the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the first central trade union organization, came into being. This might be a good occasion to take stock – to look back into history from what can only be described as a very troubled and difficult present – and peer forward into the future.

Workers, the long trek
Workers – the long trek, Image courtesy, The Wire

The year of COVID19 reveals, among other things, the very fragile and unstable nature of this entity called ‘the working class’ in countries like India. The monstrous situation arising out of the pandemic only provides us the window to that long and endless process by which the ‘working class’ is constantly made and remade. In a very important sense, unlike the peasantry which has a far more stable existence (till, for the requirements of Capital, it is uprooted and thrown into urban labour markets), the working class is an inherently structurally unstable social group. Given that its fate is tied to the requirements, caprices and maneouvres of Capital, the working class is not given to us readymade, once and for all. For as long-term changes in industry and technology occur or capital takes flight in the face of worker militancy, the working class too undergoes changes.

Continue reading Crisis of Working Class Politics – Challenges for Rebuilding the Left

Online Education, the Latest Stage of Educational Apartheid: Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

Given the rampant social and economic inequalities in our society, education has been seen by majority of the common masses as a tool for moving up the social ladder. Their aspirations for higher segment jobs and status constitute the largest component of the growing demand for higher education.Nevertheless, the opinion of the dominant classes that the state cannot pay for the education of all has come to enjoy hegemonic status, resulting in the lack of adequate development of educational infrastructure to meet the rapidly growing demand.In response to the widening gap between the demand and supply for education, successive governments have pushed through measures that allow for greater penetration of private capital in higher education, and its corollary, the persistent decline in per capita government allocation of funds towards education. Consequently, private colleges and universities have mushroomed across the country. Likewise,the expansion of the open and distance learning (ODL) mode and mainstreaming of e-learning have been consistently projected by policy makers as credible alternative routes to accessing higher education when higher educational institutions (HEIs) are not within reasonable distance, or when students do not have the marks or financial condition to enroll in formal education.

Continue reading Online Education, the Latest Stage of Educational Apartheid: Maya John

‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

 

Populismo – ISS Conference poster by Filipino artist Boy Dominguez, image courtesy future-agricultures.org

In an earlier post last month, I had discussed the global rise of the Right as related to the revolt of the ‘little man’ (a term I borrow from Wilhelm Reich) and his search for a ‘father-figure’ of authority. I had also argued in that post that the revolt of the little man in itself could not have led to the rise of the Right, were it not for  the ways in which Capital moved to appropriate and channelize that revolt against the Left and Left-of-Centre politics – and regimes that dominated the scene earlier. It is virtually impossible to understand this huge tectonic shift in the politics of the past few decades without understanding the conjunction of the little man and Capital – the Big Men – as it were. No less important, it is impossible to understand this shift without understanding the revolt of the liittle man in relation to the different structures of privilege that appear before us as culturally encoded power relations – as tradition, as ‘our way of doing things’, so to speak.

Continue reading ‘National Populisms’, the Little Man and Big Men

Statement against the arrest of Pinjra Tod Activists, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal: Students Against Fascism, Johns Hopkins University

Statement by Students Against Fascism, Johns Hopkins University, USA. Students Against Fascism is a group of international students at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA), which aims to build solidarities against fascism across borders.

We have been deeply saddened by the recent arrests of Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, the founding members of the Feminist group, Pinjra Tod. At a time, when the entire country has been dealing with the pandemic of COVID-19 and the economic hardships of the lockdown, it is of extreme concern to see that the Indian state is selectively targeting the human rights activists who have been raising their voices against the pro-Hindutva fascist policies of the Indian state.

It is abundantly clear that these arrests are a part of the series of the crackdown on the activists, who have particularly been vocal against the CAA and anti-Muslim violence in north-east of Delhi, including Umar Khalid, being threatened with sedition charges alongside other protestors like Shifa-ur-Rahman, President of Jamia Alumni Association and Zafarul Khan, Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission. In connection with this, it is also extremely disturbing to see the arrest of student activists Safoora Zargar, Meeran Haider and Asif Iqbal Tanha of Jamia Milia Islamia University and activists Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi and Ishrat Jahan, under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. This arbitrary branding of students and activists, particularly Muslim and women student activists, as “terrorists”, instead of investigating into the anti-Muslim violence in north-east Delhi and bringing the perpetrators to justice indicates the deepening of authoritarian tendencies in the Indian state. Pinjra Tod’s Natasha and Devangana’s arrests are the latest examples of this dangerous trajectory. Continue reading Statement against the arrest of Pinjra Tod Activists, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal: Students Against Fascism, Johns Hopkins University

Fears and Furies of Online (Mis)education – Lockdown and Beyond: Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

Under the condition of lockdown while we are confronted with images and accounts of the suffering of the labouring poor, and all around us there appears to be a pervasive social chaos, in our universities students and teachers are supposed to return to an atomized life condition, and essentially pursue academic work as if all is normal. Teachers and students are expected to simply ignore wider public responsibilities and recoil to their private window to online teaching-learning. The diktats of university bureaucracies that have been issued in the midst of tremendous socio-economic crisis reduce teachers to a role akin to those of musicians who continued to entertain on the sinking Titanic. Now, after the formalities of so-called online education have been fulfilled, a specter of online examinations haunts the wider student community.

Disappearance of education in the online mode

The pronouncements of Delhi University (DU) regarding online examinations for its final year students of undergraduate and postgraduate (Masters) courses, have added to the anxieties of large number of students and teachers, who have been grappling with a disrupted semester in the wake of the lockdown, and the stupendous challenges of online teaching-learning. More or less, institutions of higher education across the country are facing this predicament. The grim situation warrants a close scrutiny of the concerns of teachers and students about e-learning and online examinations.

Continue reading Fears and Furies of Online (Mis)education – Lockdown and Beyond: Maya John

The Ferocious Face of Class War – Rekindling the Revolutionary Imagination

 

Pyramid of Capitalist System, 1911 image from Industrial Worker (paperof Industrial Workers of the World)

Face of Class War in Contemporary India

It is time again to state one thing absolutely clearly. ‘Class struggle’ or ‘class warfare’ were not invented by Karl Marx, for he and his predecessors merely identified and named the beast. It is something that the rich and the powerful always did and continue to do as we speak. Look at the way the Indian lumpenbourgeoisie has bared its fangs, even as the country is reeling under the deadly impact of COVID 19; look at the way it is sharpening its knives, waiting for its opportunity to make a kill – and you will know what class war is all about. Look at them and it will be crystal clear that it is not the hapless migrant worker and the poor – or the peasant who silently commits suicide – who  indulge in this thing called class war, but they who prey on the weak and the dispossessed. They are once again preparing to make good their losses by yoking in workers as slaves, not allowing them to travel safely back to their homes, keeping them hostage to lumpencapital and ready with  their plans to make them work for 12 hours a day. There isn’t even a pretense – barring an Azim Premji here or an Asian Paints there – of recognizing workers as partners or stakeholders in business.

In a sense, ‘lumpencapitalism’ and the ‘lumpenbourgeoisie’ are the general form of Indian capital, pioneered by Dhirubhai Ambani and his Reliance Industries (interested readers can  read The Polyester Prince by Hamish McDonald) and its arrival with Gautam Adani whose recent rise to front ranks is generally understood to be linked to his closeness to the present regime. And in between, we have conglomerates like Sahara India, whose ‘primitive accumulation’ is alleged to have come almost entirely through chit fund theft.

Continue reading The Ferocious Face of Class War – Rekindling the Revolutionary Imagination

Covid-19 and the Idea of India: Manish Thakur and Nabanipa Bhattacharjee

Guest post by MANISH THAKUR and NABANIPA BHATTACHARJEE

Much has already been said and written about the plight of the migrants during the lockdown necessitated by the current Covid-19 outbreak in India. The visual images of their endless walk – which reminds us of the flight of Partition refugees – in their desperate bid to reach home in the scorching summer heat on almost empty stomachs with throats parched (women in tow with the children on men’s shoulders and their meagre belongings on the heads) is heart-wrenching to say the least. Whatever be the cause, it is a living testimony to the entrenched structures of poor governance that define our polity. It is also revealing of the class character of the Indian state, a term that has for long left the public discourse of our republic. One need not invoke Marx or be a communist to see the glaring contrast in the ways say, for instance, state functionaries conduct themselves at airports in Delhi or Kochi and railway stations at Barkakana in Jharkhand or Bapu Dham, Motihari in Bihar.

Continue reading Covid-19 and the Idea of India: Manish Thakur and Nabanipa Bhattacharjee

भारत की कोरोना नीति के चंद नुक्सानदेह पहलू: राजेन्द्र चौधरी

Guest post by RAJINDER CHAUDHARY

कोरोना से हमारा वास्ता अभी लम्बे समय तक चलने वाला है. काफिला पर छपे पिछले आलेखों में (यहाँ एवं यहाँ) में हम ने इस के सही और गलत, दोनों तरह के सबकों की चर्चा की थी पर भारत की करोना नीति की समीक्षा नहीं की थी.  आपदा और युद्ध काल में एक कहा-अनकहा दबाव रहता है कि सरकार को पूरा समर्थन दिया जाए और उस की आलोचना न की जाय पर कोरोना के मुकाबले के लिए भारत में अपनाई गई रणनीति की समीक्षा ज़रूरी है; यह समीक्षा लम्बे समय तक चलने वाली इस आपदा में रणनीति में सुधार का मौका दे सकती है. कोरोना से कैसे निपटना चाहिए इस में निश्चित तौर पर सब से बड़ी भूमिका तो कोरोना वायरस की प्रकृति की है- ये गर्मी में मरेगा या सर्दी में या नहीं ही मरेगा; बूढों को ज्यादा मारेगा या बच्चों को, इन तथ्यों का इस से निपटने की रणनीति तय करने में सब से बड़ी भूमिका है. इस लिए भारत में कोरोना की लड़ाई के मूल्यांकन से पहले हमें वायरस की प्रकृति के बारे में उपलब्ध जानकारी को रेखांकित करना होगा.

कोरोना वायरस के नए स्वरूप की बुनियादी प्रकृति

कोरोना किस्म के वायरस वैज्ञानिकों के लिए नए नहीं हैं. ये पहले भी उभरते रहे हैं और वैज्ञानिक इन का लगातार अध्ययन करते रहे हैं. परन्तु हाल में कोरोना किस्म के वायरस का एक नया स्वरूप सामने आया है, जिस से उत्पन्न होने वाली नयी बीमारी को कोविड नाम दिया गया है.  इस लिए कोरोना के इस नए वायरस के बारे में अभी सब कुछ पक्के तौर पर नहीं कहा जा सकता. अभी इस की पड़ताल चल रही है.  फिर भी दुनिया भर के वैज्ञानिकों के मिले जुले काम से और कोरोना के पहले से उपलब्ध वायरसों के जीवन चक्र को ध्यान में रखते हुए कुछ बाते काफी हद तक स्पष्ट हैं.  इन के बारे में आम तौर पर वैज्ञानिकों में सर्वानुमति है. हालाँकि विश्व स्वास्थ्य संगठन को सर्वज्ञानी तो नहीं माना जा सकता परन्तु काफी हद तक इस द्वारा प्रदत जानकारी पर भरोसा किया जा सकता है.

Continue reading भारत की कोरोना नीति के चंद नुक्सानदेह पहलू: राजेन्द्र चौधरी

Hari Vasudevan, the Soviet Archives and the Left Establishment: Sobhanlal Datta Gupta

This tribute to Prof HARI VASUDEVAN by Prof SOBHANLAL DATTA GUPTA, who passed away in Kolkata recently, is being reproduced here, courtesy Mainstream Weekly.

Thereafter, as we proceeded in our work on the publication of the texts of the documents, we began to face insurmountable resistance, quite surprisingly, from a section of the Left establishment in West Bengal. We were threatened, maligned and discouraged not to proceed with this work any further and ridiculed for our research on documents which were described as “fake” and “doctored”.

It was May, 1995, exactly 25 years ago. Hari Vasudevan (Calcutta University), Purabi Roy (Jadavpur University) and I myself (Calcutta University) were in Moscow for two months, working as a team sent by The Asiatic Society, Calcutta in connection with a project of collection of documents from the newly opened Soviet archives on Indo-Russian Relations : 1917-1947. This project was the result of a Protocol signed between The Asiatic Society, Calcutta and Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies. With extremely limited funding we were expected to prepare catalogues of as many documents as possible and bring home photocopies/microfilms of those documents which we considered most important, depending, of course, upon their accessibility. It was a Herculean job, since we had no idea of the materials we had to handle. Working on hundreds and hundreds of documents, catalouging and copying them (in many cases because of paucity of funds and since we had no laptop, quite often we had to take down a document by hand) demanded a division of labour. While Purabidi worked in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF), Archives of the Ministry of External Affairs (MID), Russian State Military Historical Archive (RGVIA), Hari and I worked in the former Central Party Archives, Institute of Marxism-Leninism (now known as Russian State Archive for Social and Political History or RGASPI ). Continue reading Hari Vasudevan, the Soviet Archives and the Left Establishment: Sobhanlal Datta Gupta

Paean – A Song for Triumphs, For Usha Ganguly and Irrfan Khan: The Mocking Birds

Guest Post by the group THE MOCKING BIRDS

आज की रात न फ़ुट-पाथ पे नींद आएगी
सब उठो, मैं भी उठूँ तुम भी उठो, तुम भी उठो
कोई खिड़की इसी दीवार में खुल जाएगी
ये ज़मीं तब भी निगल लेने पे आमादा थी
पाँव जब टूटती शाख़ों से उतारे हम ने
उन मकानों को ख़बर है न मकीनों को ख़बर
उन दिनों की जो गुफाओं में गुज़ारे हम ने ( कैफ़ी आज़मी )
              सच है इस लॉक डॉउन में हमने लगभग गुफाओं में दिन गुजारे है, कुछ आब ला पा सड़क पर दर ब दर है, कुछ ऐसे है जो इस फानी दुनिया से चले गए, ऐसा लगता है जैसे उनको इस आगत का इलहाम हो गया था आज के ग़म का, और जल्द ही चले गए …. फ़ैज़ से कुछ पंक्तियां लेकर

Continue reading Paean – A Song for Triumphs, For Usha Ganguly and Irrfan Khan: The Mocking Birds

Beyond the ‘Employment’ Paradigm and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope IV

 

[This is the final instalment of the series on ‘Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope’. Earlier parts can be accessed Part I here, Part II here and Part III here.]

Democratizing access to resources, Image courtesy AWID, created by Ana Abelenda

The Employment Paradigm

In this final instalment of the series, I want to discuss the vexed question of employment and what can be called the ’employment mindset’.  The mindset has dominated politics and the discipline of economics for the last century and a half for sure.  Before that youthful capitalism simply put people uprooted from their habitats and traditional occupations (the artisans and peasants) into ‘poor houses’ and enacted the most vicious laws to force the dispossessed poor work for it. Marxists give this violent pillage the scientific- sounding name of ‘primitive accumulation’ (or primary accumulation). ‘Scientific’ because it was seen by Marx as the ‘historical process of the separation of producer from “his” means of production’ – as if it was an objective process that was in some sense inevitable. Marx’s chapter on ‘primitive accumulation’ in Capital Vol I, certainly shows that he was revolted by the plunder and robbery that this phenomenon entailed but in a manner of speaking, by giving it an aura of historical inevitability, he could displace the solution to some future. There is also no doubt that the sections of Capital where Marx deals with the enactment of Poor Laws in Britain are full of passion and anger at what capitalism was doing – but then, what can you do with a process that is historically inevitable? Remember too that it was the same logic of ‘objectivity’ of ‘historical inevitability’ that was used to justify colonialism as the ‘unconscious tool of history’. The British Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson wrote of precisely these populations that perished in ‘the storm of industrialization’. He was so moved by their predicament that he wanted to ‘rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity’. Yet, Thompson believed, like a good Marxist, that the artisan or the handloom weaver that he was writing about were ‘obsolete’ (Thompson’s term). Thus, he wrote, Continue reading Beyond the ‘Employment’ Paradigm and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope IV

Over 1100 Feminists Condemn Crackdown on Women Activists in Delhi

Issued on 3 May, 2020

Over 1,100  feminsts across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders

DENOUNCE false narratives that try to link anti-CAA protests with the violence in Delhi.

DENOUNCE false narratives that try to link anti-CAA protests with the violence in Delhi.

DEMAND an immediate stop to targeting of Muslim women activists
under the shadow of the Covid 19 lockdown.

SEEK ACTION against actual perpetrators of violence, not peaceful protestors.

STAND FIRM with the conscience keepers of the nation

We, the undersigned, strongly condemn the brazenly malicious attacks, arrests and intimidation by the Delhi Police of Muslim women, students and activists, as well as other citizens who have spoken up against the unconstitutional moves of the present ruling dispensation. Media reports that about 800 + anti-CAA protesters have been detained or arrested since the Covid 19 lockdown, which means they have had little or no access to lawyers and legal aid, and their families given no information of their whereabouts for extended periods after they were in custody. The impunity with which the Delhi Police is carrying out this sweep under direct orders from the Home Ministry is facilitated by the reduced media, public and legal scrutiny under the lockdown.

Continue reading Over 1100 Feminists Condemn Crackdown on Women Activists in Delhi

Remembering Marx in Lockdown Times – Beyond the “Corona” Paradigm: Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Karl Marx, the greatest intellectual of the millennium, it is best to steer clear of hero-worshipping. Instead, let us commemorate Marx’s ideas by re-enacting his way of knowing things. Much can be drawn from his writings wherein we can see Marx reinvigorating the revolutionary agenda at a time of deep despair and defeat. Reflecting and writing after the failed revolutions of 1848, Marx provided an introspective critique of unfolding conditions in his essay The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852). Closely examining the events of the successful coup and assumption of dictatorial powers by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in republican France in 1851, Marx was the only contemporaneous political thinker to liken the ascendancy of Louis-Bonaparte to that of his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, who seized power in revolutionary France through the coup of 18 Brumaire (7 November 1799).

Continue reading Remembering Marx in Lockdown Times – Beyond the “Corona” Paradigm: Maya John

Migrant Workers, COVID- 19 and our Collective Indifference: Anindya Sekhar Purakayastha and Mursed Alam

Guest post by ANINDYA SEKHAR PURAKAYASTHA and MURSED ALAM

Critical opinions described India as the ‘Republic of Hunger’or as the ‘Republic of Caste’ and now the post-Corona plight of countless migrant workers makes us want to describe it as the Republic of Indifference. Lakhs of migrant workers along with their family members are stuck at different corners of the country, unfed, mistreated and uncared. Recent images of migrant workers flocking to Bandra station in Maharashtra, with hopes of resumption of train services taking them home and the subsequent police action to disperse them was watched and commented by all of us. Most reactions were emotive and anguish ridden but that have little impact on the ground situation in which these migrants are forced to live during this lockdown. It is true that some NGOs and various philanthropic organizations and governmental aids have to a certain extent catered to their needs but their misery demands more than mere empathy or selective mercy. They need concrete action on the ground. It is astounding to see the Government of India announcing the lockdown on 25 March without having any concrete action plan for these countless migrant workers. This completely betrays the government`s indifference to their sufferings. As if we take them and their sufferings for granted. Earlier some migrants were packed off in over-crowded buses with no money and in Delhi migrant workers were stranded in a bus station in large numbers, rendering them more vulnerable to the infection threat. By all means the COVID 19 crisis has once again proved that they are the Rejects of India. They are mere numbers, and we club them under one official category of “Migrants”, they are not human beings, a mere category of the Reject, who are left out to fend for themselves. We, armchair intellectuals and the moneyed class securely ensconced in our comfort zone, guaranteed of our salaries and jobs, passed off social media comments. The self-appointed radical fringe among us called for the closure of all other activities like educational studies as migrants are suffering but all these predictable reactions boiled down to nothing when it comes to forcing the government to come down to the street and adopt concrete steps to mitigate the traumas of these suffering faces who are away from homes and family.

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Fascism, the Revolt of the ‘Little Man’ and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope III

 

 

A representational image of a Hindutva demonstration, courtesy Sabrang.

[This the third instalment of a series on ‘Life After Capitalism – A Manifesto of Hope’. Earlier parts can be accessed Part I here and Part II here. Part IV can be accessed here.]

Yesterday was V. I. Lenin’s 150th birth anniversary and just the other day I read a report of a survey that claimed that 75 percent of Russians think the Soviet era was the best time in the country’s history. A great tribute to Lenin on this occasion, one would imagine, whatever may have been the reasons for socialism’s collapse. If you could put this response in Russia to nostalgia for a time gone by, it comes as an even bigger surpise that a recent poll in the United States of America, conducted by an outfit called YouGov and funded by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (a clearly anti-communist outfit) found that 70 percent of the millennials (between the age of 23 and 38 years in 2019) favoured socialism. Earlier in February 2019, Jochen Bittner, politcal editor of the German weekly Die Zeit wrote in the New York Times on ‘Why Socialism is Coming Back in Germany?’

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मज़दूरों के नाम खुला पत्र: #MigrantLivesMatter

मज़दूरों के नाम खुला पत्र

प्रवासी माइग्रेंट शार्मिक सहयोग (माइग्रेंट वरकर्स सॉलिडैरिटी) :

सरकारों और पूंजीपतियों द्वारा कोरोना महामारी के दौरान लॉक डाउन में फंसे मजदूरों के साथ किए जा रहे अमानवीय, ज़बरजस्ती और दमनात्मक व्यवहार के ख़िलाफ़!

साथियों,

केंद्र सरकार द्वारा 19 अप्रैल को एक मानक संचालन प्रोटोकॉल (एसओपी) आदेश जारी करके राज्यों और केंद्र शासित प्रदेशों में फंसे श्रमिकों के आने जाने को लेकर उठाया गया कदम, श्रमिकों के अधिकारों पर कुठाराघात है।  आइए, हम सब मिलकर पूंजीपतियों और सरकरो के खिलाफ जो कोविड -19 महामारी के बहाने मज़दूरों का और ज्यादा शोषण करना चाहते हैं, का मिलकर प्रतिवाद करे ।

सरकार द्वारा जारी यह आदेश किस बारे में है? 19 अप्रैल को गृह मंत्रालय द्वारा जारी इस सर्कुलर के मुताबिक़ फैक्ट्रियों में उत्पादन जारी रखने के लिए, जो श्रमिक जहां है उसको उस राज्य में कहीं भी ले जाया जा सकता है। लेकिन मजदूरों को अपने घर वापस जाने की इजाजत नहीं है। इस आदेश का सीधा मतलब है कि हम मज़दूरों के पास सरकार के आदेशों का पालन करने के अलावा कोई चारा नहीं है। लेकिन पिछले अनुभव बताते हैं कि स्थानीय प्रशासन और पुलिस की मिलीभगत से मज़दूरों को जबरदस्ती काम करने के लिए मजबूर किया जाएगा। पहले से ही इस तरह की खबरें सामने आनी शुरू हो गई हैं। ऐसे में, क्या यह कहना गलत नहीं होगा कि भारत में कोरोना महामारी से निपटने के बहाने बंधुआ मजदूरी लागू करने की कोशिश की जा रही है? Continue reading मज़दूरों के नाम खुला पत्र: #MigrantLivesMatter

NLU Jodhpur alumni and students protest homophobic teaching materials

Current VI semester undergraduate students of the University pursuing the ‘Sociology – III Law and Society’ course, at the National Law University Jodhpur were sent outright homophobic content purportedly as essential reading (details of the readings are in the letter below). The material presented outdated notions of homosexuality. When the faculty member was challenged via email by a student, she said she had shared it to encourage debate and present one side of the prevailing views on homosexuality. However, the material was sent without providing any such context. The faculty committed that she would be sending updated material presenting sociological developments on the subject in the coming few days. However, instead of doing so, she delegated her responsibility to the student who had written to her, a move that can only be interpreted as reprisal.

The interim student body wrote to the Vice Chancellor on the issue. 150 alumni members also wrote to the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and General Council of NLU-J asking for disciplinary action against the faculty member, an external resource person to teach the subject, and review of the course curriculum.

This is the letter

Dear Dr. Saxena and Members of the General Council,

We, the undersigned alumni of National Law University, Jodhpur, much to our consternation, have learnt that current VI semester undergraduate students of the University pursuing the ‘Sociology – III Law and Society’ course were sent outright homophobic content purportedly as essential reading by Dr. Asha Bhandari, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Member, Academic Council, on April 11, 2020. On a perusal of the content, it is evident that the material sent by Dr. Bhandari is unscientific, uncritical, based on outdated notions of homosexuality, perpetuates dangerous stereotypes, and legitimizes prejudice against the LGBTIQ community. As you would all agree, this is unacceptable in any institute of learning, much less in one that prides itself on being a premier national law school.

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Agony of COVID-19 and the Lockdown – Who is Afraid of ‘Class’? Maya John

Guest post by MAYA JOHN

This essay is the second part of a two-part series on Society in the Time of Covid 19. The first part appeared in Kafila on 5 April and can be read here.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas…Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1845)

The Bolshevik slogans and ideas on the whole have been confirmed by history; but concretely things have worked out differently; they are more original, more peculiar, more variated than anyone could have expected. – V.I. Lenin, Letters on Tactics (1918)

रहिमन विपदा हू भली, जो थोरे दिन होय हित अनहित या जगत में, जान परत सब कोय

Crisis of a few days is better/ For it reveals who is friend and who is foe. – Khanzada Mirza Khan Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, ‘Rahim’      (1556 – 1627)

Looking at what transpires each day of this epidemic coupled with lock-down, people appear to be plucked out of heterogeneous circumstances and placed in the homogenous time of “Corona”, putting all things in abeyance. The battered housewife whose alcoholic husband grows restless with every day; mourning relatives who’ve lost a loved one and struggle to make it to the last rites; the live-in ‘maids’ whose workday begins at the crack of dawn; the municipal worker who continues to de-clog our sewer lines to prevent the chance of reverse flow in our commodes; the young, newly-wed construction worker who’s anxious about his wife in the village; the tired nurse who fears she’s contracted the wretched infection; among many other circumstances of life are part of this moment, the epidemic-cum-lock-down. The coupling of epidemic and lock-down has created confusion for some people in terms of which of the two is deadlier. For many this is an unprecedented, exceptional time. But for others this moment is not new but rather a repetition of the similar course of life, with the addition of just another fear. Many are puzzled by how, among all the life-threatening contagious diseases and illnesses in circulation, “Corona” gained prominence.

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