Category Archives: Left watch

Untimely Explorations in a ‘Field’ Called ‘Marxism’

Zapatista (EZLN) ‘irregulars’ militia (male and female) who receive military training but are mobilized only in emergencies, Courtesy: Anya Briy and OpenDemocracy

I am interested in ‘Marxism’ as a field or a force-field in the sense in which we think of electromagnetic or gravitational fields, where objects and bodies impact on other bodies and objects, and have effects, without necessarily coming into contact.

Ever since the 2008 financial crisis and the beginning of the end of the neoliberal order, when sales of Marx’s writings, of Capital in particular, went up dramatically, there have been prognostications of the ‘return of Marx’. Indeed, there has also been an attempt, for a much longer time now, especially after the collapse of Soviet-bloc socialism, of a ‘return to Marx’. Both the millennial expectation of Marx’s Second Coming and that of a ‘return to’, display a distinct theological orientation –  insisting on a return to the pristine source, uncontaminated by the ‘deviations’ wrought by Leninist or Maoist-inspired practice in the underdeveloped regions of the world.

Continue reading Untimely Explorations in a ‘Field’ Called ‘Marxism’

‘Joblessness’ In The Post-Employment World – Urgent Need for Paradigm Change

Job seekers at a job-fair in Chinchwad, 2019, Image courtesy Reuters/ Danish Siddiqui

The ‘unemployment’ question, let us put it bluntly, is not just an innocent and neutral question today but a key arena of class war – the war of Capital on society at large. Capital has its plans but does “society” have one?

Enter the Post-Employment World

It was reported last week that top IT sector companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Tech Mahindra and Cognizant are likely to slash 3 million jobs by next year. With large-scale resort to Artificial Intelligence (AI) based “robot process automation” (RPA), these companies, by shedding these jobs are expecting to “save a whopping USD 100 billion, mostly in salaries, annually” says the Indian Express report linked above. Citing NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies) the report tells us that the domestic IT sector employs around 16 million, of whom “around 9 million are employed in low-skill and BPO roles.”

Of these 9 million low-skilled services and BPO roles, 30 per cent or around 3 million will be lost by 2022, principally driven by the impact of robot process automation or RPA. Roughly 0.7 million roles are expected to be replaced by RPA alone and the rest due to other technological upgrades and upskilling by the domestic IT players, while it the RPA will have the worst impact in the US with a loss of almost 1 million jobs, according to a Bank of America report on Wednesday.”

Continue reading ‘Joblessness’ In The Post-Employment World – Urgent Need for Paradigm Change

‘No More Poor People In a Rich Country’ – What Will Peru’s Left Victory Mean?

Supporters of Left Presidential candidate Pedro Castillo on the streets, image courtesy Reuters

Supporters of Left Presidential candidate Pedro Castillo take to the streets, image courtesy BBC and Reuters

It seems quite clear from the latest reports coming in from Peru that the Left-wing candidate Pedro Castillo is all set to win in what has been described as the most polarized election till date. With over 99 percent of the ballots counted, Castillo had taken a lead of approximately 80, 000 votes (50. 2 of the total) over his Right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori. The counting process, reports say, has already been considerably slowed down as ballots seem to be still arriving from abroad as well as from the remote rural areas. Votes of expatriates arriving from abroad are mostly right wing votes for Fujimori whereas the ones from the rural areas are likely to be overwhelmingly for Castillo. There also seem to be a huge number of contested votes that might need to be recounted, further slowing down the process.

Continue reading ‘No More Poor People In a Rich Country’ – What Will Peru’s Left Victory Mean?

CPI (M)’s History of Moving Away from Committed Leftism from its Birth: Sankar Ray

Guest post by SANKAR RAY

History apparently allows freaks, whims and hypocrisy, but only temporarily. After all, Hegel as very succinctly stated, ‘History is a slaughter house’. It spares none, not excluding India’s once most powerful Leftist party in the parliamentary arena, Communist Party of India (Marxist) that once had 44 MPs in the lower house of Indian parliament, Lok Sabha. It now faces  a crisis of identity and existence. Hypocrisy and falsehood in politics and ideological positions have been two main reasons for the vertical decline of party’s influence and image.
Ten years ago,  Indranil Chakraborty in his Master’s thesis –“The Market Odyssey: Why and How Was ‘The Market’ Discourse Incorporated in the Party Program of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) During the Days of the Communist Party of China’s ‘Market Socialism’?” referred to CPI(M)’s open criticism of ‘the development of the personality cult of Mao( Tse Tung) , and the problem of left adventurism during the Cultural Revolution. He pointed out that the criticism evaded ‘the question of the relationship between socialism and democracy, and the role of the Chinese people in deciding policy matters of the state’.  He quoted Harkishan Singh Surjeet’s article in the party’s theoretical monthly, The Marxist in 1993 commemorating Mao’s birth centenary – ‘We cannot make a subjective analysis of a personality in cases where errors have been committed in the application of the theory to practice.’

Continue reading CPI (M)’s History of Moving Away from Committed Leftism from its Birth: Sankar Ray

Post-Election Musings -Federalism to the Fore: Nakul Singh Sawhney

Guest post by NAKUL SINGH SAWHNEY

Some observations and takeaways from State Assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Assam in May 2021 – from an original Facebook post. The observations are in the form of informal reflections but they point towards certain developments that might open up new, anticipated spaces for the struggle for a democratic India.

Federalism: The Election verdicts of May 2, 2021, from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala scream ‘federalism’. The election results are so vastly different in the State Assemblies and Lok Sabha. The election outcomes of Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala are important examples of this phenomenon.

India is a country that naturally lends itself to federalism and greater state autonomy. While the Congress, by and large, didn’t allow for it, the BJP is hell-bent on a deeply centralized structure and crushing any aspiration for regional autonomy. If progressive forces don’t take up the question of federalism and state autonomy, then it runs the risk of slipping into the hands of crude chauvinists and xenophobes like Shiv Sena of yesteryears or secessionists like Khalistanis.

Continue reading Post-Election Musings -Federalism to the Fore: Nakul Singh Sawhney

Ominous Dark Clouds Over Bengal’s Skies…

A demonstration by the ‘No Vote to BJP’ campaign in Kolkata, (older image) courtesy The Telegraph

As close to 8.5 lakh voters spread over 35 Assembly constituencies go to vote today in the last phase of Bengal’s elections, the line from the famous jatra Nabab Siraj-Ud-Doula from which the title of this post is extracted, haunts. The original ‘jatra pala’, written by Sachin Sengupta was staged in 1938 had a dialogue that announced the dark clouds collecting at Bengal’s horizons. The lines ‘Banglar akashe aaj durjoger ghanaghata/ Taar shyamal prantore rakter alpona’ have since resounded in the many iterations of the play, over the decades. The figures of Siraj-Ud-Daula and the traitor Mir Jafar have generally become part of Bengal’s political vocabulary but this time round the sense of Bengal being under attack from ‘outsiders’ has been pervasive. Along with that other episode of political folklore – repeated attacks by the borgis or the plunderous cavalrymen of the Maratha Empire, on Bengal has been recalled often. The attacks by the borgis were followed, only a few years later, by the Battle of Plassey (Palashi), in which Siraj-Ud-Daula was defeated after Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, his army commander, to betray the Nawab. 

This time round too, it is widely believed, the aggression by ‘outsiders’ cannot and will not succeed but for the Mir Jafar’s who collaborate with the aggressors.

Continue reading Ominous Dark Clouds Over Bengal’s Skies…

Sitalkuchi And After – A Flashback to CPI-M Rule in West Bengal

Graves of the four young men killed in Sitalkuchi, courtesy Newslaundry

As the news of the killings of four youth in Sitalkuchi in Cooch Behar district by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) came in on 10 April, reactions of horror and anger became evident all around. This reaction among politically informed sections was only natural, for anybody with a little bit of common intelligence will tell you that the BJP is making an all out bid to capture power in the state. And anyone who has watched the Modi-Shah duo in action over the past few years, does not need to be told what this means. It is always ‘Heads I win; Tails you lose’ with them. It doesn’t matter what dirty trick you have to play, all is fair in this game of capturing power with them. They will form the government, no matter who wins but first, every effort has to be made to ‘win’ by any means. And that means by ANY means, ranging from killing people by engineering violent communal incidents to buying off opposition parties’ winning legislators. Despite the full battery of BJP’s star campaigners ranging from Narendra Modi and Shah to Yogi Adityanath making repeated visits to the state, their rallies have seen very low turnout and in some instances meetings had to be cancelled. So the desperation is growing. The first four of the unprecedented eight rounds in the state’s elections were to be in the areas where TMC is relatively weak. But even in these areas the reports were not very encouraging for the BJP. Thus, every child in Bengal could see what these killings meant. Except the CPI-M that is.

Soon the story of the killings was being given a typically BJP IT Cell spin: a mob of Muslim TMC people surrounded the CISF and tried to snatch their rifles. This was followed by identical tweets by a range of people describing how they could not sleep all night because of the sounds of the explosion of bombs, suggesting that things had been going on all night – and the CISF action in the morning was therefore, only justified.

Seasoned CPI-M stalwarts on Twitter apparently neither saw those tweets or more likely, jumped at them to immediately amplify the BJP narrative of provocation by TMC (Muslim mob is often implied). It is certainly not possible that anybody with a little bit of common sense would not have immediately seen this copy paste job for what it was – a BJP IT Cell operation. The CPI-M leaders and their social media warriors went on, willfully, to reinforce the ‘provocation’ narrative that was being circulated by the BJP.

Meanwhile, many people including poll analysts and former bureaucrats started asking that if there really was an irate mob attacking the CISF party, where was the footage? Was there any video evidence? No such question crossed the CPI-M leaders’ minds and from all appearances, from Biman Bose to Mohd Salim (and the pathetic Sujan Chakrabarty) pushed ahead with not-so-subtle ways of relaying the BJP narrative and indeed, it was not difficult to discern that they were in fact, gloating.

Continue reading Sitalkuchi And After – A Flashback to CPI-M Rule in West Bengal

Nandigram – An Introduction to Political Analysis

Nandigram 2007, Image courtesy Kolkata24x7

Mamata Banerjee recently stirred up a fresh new controversy by accusing her former party colleague Suvendu Adhikari, now adversary in the Nandigram Assembly seat as BJP candidate, of being complicit in the 14 March 2007 violence. Had it not been for the complicity of the ‘father-son duo’ (Suvendu and his father Sisir Adhikari, both in the BJP now), she claimed in the heat of the electoral campaign, the police could not have entered Nandigram. She also asked rhetorically how it came to be that these two were spared by the police? To my mind, the claims seem difficult to sustain, if only because, the CPI(M) was at the height of its power and would have had little to do with these Trinamool Congress leaders. Listening to her speak, it did seem that she was quite rattled. Who would not be – with Amit Shah and central government on one side, the aggressive BJP goons in the state, her erstwhile collaborators now on the BJP side and, to cap it all, the aggressive, misogynist, patriarchal campaign against her from the CPI(M)? One meme by people obviously linked to the CPM, for instance, portrayed her witch-like, with a haggard and wicked expression, which was counter-posed to the young beauteous CPI(M) candidate Meenakshi Mukherjee. The meme describes Meenakshi as the ‘beloved daughter of Bengal’, while Mamata is described as the ‘old hag spinster sister-in-law’. (After a lot of hue and cry, this meme was taken off though the page continues to be on Facebook).

Continue reading Nandigram – An Introduction to Political Analysis

Communist Manifesto, Late Marx and the Farmers’ Struggle

 

 

Spot the difference between the two quotations below.

“The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.” – [Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848. Emphasis added]

Farmers’ protest at Delhi borders, image courtesy New Indian Express

“Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers, appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But, on the other hand, these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.” – [Karl Marx, Capital Volume 1, Chapter 26, ‘The Secret of Primitive Accumulation’. 1867. All emphasis added]

Look closely at both, and if you have any doubts, you can return to the original texts from which these two passages have been extracted – the Communist Manifesto, by the youthful Marx and Engels, published in 1848 and Capital, Volume I, published in 1867. If the Communist Manifesto almost celebrates the ‘fact’ that capitalism has “rescued a considerable part of the population [i.e. the peasant] from the idiocy of rural life”, what does the text of Capital say? It underlines that precisely these people who had been thus ‘rescued’, “became sellers of themselves after they had been robbed of all their means of production“.

And if we take a step outside their context and read these lines in the context of contemporary India – from Singur and Nandigram to the ongoing saga of the epic farmers’ struggle – it is not difficult to see why the text of Capital insists that the history of their expropriation is written in “letters of blood and fire.” The big difference is that while literally millions perished in the storm of capitalist industrialization in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and simply disappeared into history; today, the peasants, farmers and indigenous people – all the so-called ‘pre-capitalist’ populations  –  are fighting back. There were no institutions of democracy, no language of struggle back then; it was the sheer exercise of naked power by the rising bourgeoisie that enforced the expropriation of agrarian and artisanal communities.

Continue reading Communist Manifesto, Late Marx and the Farmers’ Struggle

Molehills from mountains and other stories from kerala

Recently, on fieldwork in a peri-urban panchayat in Kerala devastated by illegal large-scale granite quarrying, a local resident pointed us to what looked like a hillock. It was covered with vegetation — and flowers of a pleasant lilac — which made a very pretty sight — and to the naked eye, looked as solid as any other hillock in the peripheries of the Western Ghats. “This hillock,” he clarified, “is actually just a heap. It is the earth loosened by quarrying, heaped up here over a long time. Because it is overgrown by weeds, we think it is a verdant hill.” Far from being the latter, he said, it poses a serious danger to the neighborhood. “A spell of really heavy rain can bring it down and just imagine what will happen to the houses below?”

Continue reading Molehills from mountains and other stories from kerala

A people’s planning adequate to twenty-first century kerala

It is now about twenty-five years since the CPM in Kerala took the calculated risk of meeting neoliberalism half-way through an experiment in localising development. The People’s Planning Campaign drew eclectically on a range of ideologies, from Gandhian self-reliance to neoliberal self-help, not always in ways that were sufficiently self-conscious, but there can be little doubt that there was a conscious effort to build in some mechanisms, however minimal, to counter the possible ill-being that neoliberal responsibilized welfare could inflict.

Continue reading A people’s planning adequate to twenty-first century kerala

Fascism, Democracy and the Left : Com Dipankar Bhattacharya

 

The 6th lecture in the Democracy Dialogues series organized by the New Socialist Initiative was delivered by Com Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary of CPI (ML) Liberation on 20 th December 6 pm (IST) where he spoke on ‘Fascism, Democracy and the Left’

Abstract  : ‘Fascism, Democracy, and the Left’

With the rise of the Modi government, BJP has managed to establish a vicious grip on Indian polity. Parliamentary democracy and the constitutional vision of a secular democratic Indian republic have come under fierce attack. Instead of remaining busy with studying historical parallels we should treat the present phase as the rise of the Indian model of fascism and resist it with all our might. While we can locate the present Indian developments in the context of global economic and political trends in the post-Soviet world, there are strong roots in Indian history and society. One should revisit Ambedkar and the warnings he had issued right at the time of adoption of India’s Constitution.
The Left vision and role in politics has been historically identified with ideas and experiments of building socialism, but the challenge for socialism to offer a superior model of democracy has remained fatally neglected. In the face of a fascist offensive, the Left in India must emerge and assert as the most consistent and reliable champion of democracy.

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Bengal 2021, Fascism and the Left(s)

 

 

‘The specific threat of National Socialism was obscured amid general talk of the perils of “fascists”, a term egregiously applied to Bruning, Social Democrats and all and sundry. Dogmatic catastrophist theorising led the Communists to actively underplay the Nazis: Ernst Thalman warned the KPD [Communist Party of Germany] Central Committee in February 1932 “that nothing would be more disastrous than an opportunistic overestimation of Hitler-fascism.’  – Michael Burleigh, The Third Reich – A New History, p. 136

Ernst Thalman warned his party’s Central Committee against ‘opportunistically overestimating Hitler’, literally months before Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January the following year. What is more, this statement was made at a time when the intentions of the Nazis were hidden to nobody. As Burleigh puts it, they had frequently announced their contempt for the law and ‘by 1932 were vowing to intern Communists and Social Democrat opponents in concentration camps.’ (p. 149) Thalman, we know, was killed in the Buchenwald concentration camp in August 1944, eleven years after being held in captivity. Indeed, Thalman was arrested barely a year after he warned his party not to overestimate ‘Hitler-fascism’.

Continue reading Bengal 2021, Fascism and the Left(s)

Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar

[Inaugural Lecture of ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series ( Webinar)
Organised by New Socialist Initiative, 12 th July 2020]

Join us on facebook.com/newsocialistinitiative.nsi for further updates

 

( Prof Suhas Palshikar, Chief Editor, Studies in Indian Politics and Co-director, Lokniti at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, delivered the inaugural lecture in the ‘Democracy Dialogues’ Series initiated by New Socialist Initiative.

In this lecture he attempted to trace the roots of the current moment of India’s democracy in the overall global journey of democracy, the extra-ordinarily ambitious and yet problematic foundational moment of Indian democracy and the many diversions India’s democracy has taken over time. He argued that unimaginative handling of the extra-ordinary ambition and Statist understanding of the ‘power-democracy’ dialectic formed the basis for easy distortions of democratic practice and that while populism and majoritarianism are the current challenges, they are by no means only special to the present and therefore, even as critique and course-correction of present political crisis is urgently required, a more long-term view of the trajectory of Indian democracy is necessary.

Here follows a detailed summary of his presentation prepared by Dr Sanjay Kumar)

Continue reading Trajectory of India’s Democracy and Contemporary Challenges : Prof Suhas Palshikar

Break the Chain, Break the (Unconventional) Family?

My earlier posts on the Kerala Left’s inability to forge an adequate and democratizing response to the ‘societal emergencies’ that have challenged Malayali society in the 21st century, and on the completely-unjustified attack on the body artist Rehana Fathima seem to have irritated, even angered, many supporters of the CPM on Facebook.

These people are not youngsters, a detail that is really important. Indeed, they largely belong to the upper-middle-class professional elite, indeed, perhaps among the best-off sections of Malayali society, which include medical professionals, male and female. Their responses reveal very interesting details about how the pandemic shapes our understanding of ‘useful expertise’:  at this moment, we are told, just listen to medical professionals, and not just their views on issues pertaining to health, but also to ‘social health’.  Many of these professionals believe that the brazen violence unleashed against Rehana Fathima’s family — her mother-in-law has been denied free dialysis simply because she is Rehana Fathima’s mother-in-law, and BSNL has ordered the eviction of the family on completely ridiculous grounds – is a minor diversion, an irritating, trivial one, compared to the task of controlling the pandemic on the ground, which of course, brings the medical professional (even when he/she works in Kerala’s private hospitals, which are surely not the epitome of altruism) to the centre of public discourse as the ‘hero’ that everyone should be eternally grateful to. And if such heroes tell you that Rehana Fathima is just a child-abusing publicity-seeker, then you have to just say yes. And, as as the artist Radha Gomathy put it, participate in the Break-the-Chain-and-Break-the-Family campaign — or punish Rehana’s supportive family for not being freakishly conservative, like good Malayali families.

Bolstering their claim to be the only ‘real experts’ to talk about Malayali society at the moment is their implicit understanding that medical professionals are somehow more ‘scientific’ than others. Yet I was amazed — indeed, alarmed — by the carelessness with which they dealt with empirical information and their easy abandonment of logic.  The tendency to equate technical training with scientific is very strong in these Facebook debates, as also the idea that social science and history are some airy-fairy romance that lacks scientific basis.

I am mentioning these features not to put these people down — and I am also aware of, and grateful to, many other medical professionals who expressed unease at these acts of hubris. I wish only to flag what seems to me an emerging axis of power in post-pandemic Kerala. A form in which the state’s apparatus of biopower is projected insistently as the sole benevolent source of human sustenance that must engage us constantly; it is not that critical discourse should be abolished, but it must focus, and gently, on this pre-given object. In it, the biological body is the object on which the state builds its new protectionism; the only kind of body it is bound to protect. The ‘new expert’ wields power on it, and their technical interventions will henceforth be recognized as ‘scientific’  — and the significance of the gap between the two will be ignored. The suspension of neoliberal logic during the pandemic has indeed allowed the Left to behave, even think, like the left — this emerging protectionism seems to be actually riding on it.

It is not surprising at all then that for some of these experts, those of us who contested the purportedly ‘scientific claim’ that Rehana’s children will be necessarily harmed psychologically by the sight of their mother’s exposed torso, or the equally-shaky idea that they necessarily lack the psychological strength the resist the taunts of society, seem dangerous to society.  Rehana’s use of the body is aimed at the long-term; it signals the possibility of seeing the body as the site of aesthetic play and creativity; its androgynous appearance and breaking of stereotypes about the maternal body make it defy gendered classification (so necessary for the state). Her husband deserves punishment because he had abandoned the role of Reformer-Husband so central to the twentieth-century reformist discourse. Our experts’ ‘scientific temperaments’ do not allow them to perceive the fact that the Reformer-Husband carried the burden of ushering his wife into (a gendered) modernity, while in twenty-first century Kerala, women no longer need such ushering — there is data that shows that more women than men complete their education and enter higher education; that they outperform men in most examinations and have entered most modern professions; that in marriages, the bride is now likely to be more educated than the groom. The family needs to be punished as a whole for allowing such explorations of the body.

I still repose faith in the democratizing possibilities that this window of time gives us, but that does not make me blind to this wilful shutting out of the long-term and the agency of citizens. It is as if future society may be imagined by citizens only with or after the state. The state sees a vague and uncertain future, and therefore all citizens should, therefore, limit themselves to the immediate and present. Nothing should be allowed to disrupt the Left’s hegemony-building through pandemic-control exercises. Even if that requires that we turn a blind eye to the fact that the refurbishing of this hegemony may not be antithetical to the further entrenchment of biopower and the reign of these new experts.

 

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

An Appeal for an Artist: Buy Brushes for Rehana Fathima’s Son

I am making appeal here to all people who really care for children’s rights beyond the hypocrisies of the global child rights discourse.

A controversy is raging in Kerala over a video of body art posted by the body-activist Rehana Fathima in which her two children paint an image of a phoenix on the exposed torso of their mother. The children are not nude, they don’t look outside the frame. Rehana herself does not look out, nor is her body being displayed in any explicit sense. There is nothing pornographic; the video was not made for commercial purposes. However, the video has unleashed a storm of outrage and the bitter conservatism of both Right and Left-wing politics in Kerala now engulfs the family like a toxic fog.

Rehana has been subject to unimaginable violence online. She is no stranger to it; her insistent efforts to keep radical body politics alive in a society in which bodies are strictly subject to caste and religions communities and bound firmly within heternormative sexuality, patrilineal family-forms and marriages that insist of huge dowry payment to the groom have stirred all sort of insecurities, unconscious and otherwise, of the Malayali masculinist elite. During the conservative backlash against the Supreme Court’s verdict approving the entry of female devotees to the Sabarimala temple in 2018, Rehana Fathima (who claims that she had converted long back and is also known by the name Surya Gayatri) made an attempt to make the pilgrimage, resulting in her arrest and jailing. She was accused of obscenity for uploading a picture of herself in the pilgrim’s costume, but showing a little skin off her thigh.

In the present case, she is accused of corrupting her children by exposing them to her naked body and then making the video public. The first complaint was filed by a BJP functionary and then the Kerala State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights directed the police to file cases against her charging the provisions of the POCSO Act. Other cases against her have used the provisions of the IT Act and the Juvenile Justice Act.

The police raided her home — and seized the laptop and, appalling, her son’s cherished set of brushes and paints. This violence remains unnoticed. There has been much hand-wringing by hypocrites who claim that they are not offended by the art but because children have been involved. These people do not seem to notice the violence against this young boy.

Rehana’s 13 year old is serious about his art. He is not like the kids who parents force into art classes so that they can brag about it in their circle. He is not traumatised by the sight of his mother’s body, but by the loss of his brushes, taken away by the Kerala Police as ‘evidence’ of the ‘crime’! The investigation of alleged violation of child rights gets an auspicious start, I suppose, with the police committing precisely such violation.

I appeal to all of you who think this is injustice — irrespective of whether it is technically proper or not — to speak up. If you can, please contribute brushes. Or pay Rs 10.  The child’s father, Manoj K Sreedhar, is on Facebook.  The address is : Rujul manav (appu) c/o Rehana fathima Ernakulam 682036 Mob: manoj 9446767666.

 

J Devika.

Why does the Left in Kerala fear Rehana Fathima and not COVID- 19?

Before I start, a request:    Friends who are reading this, if you are close to Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, or Soumya Swaminathan, or the other left-liberals who appear in the Kerala government-sponsored talk series from outside Kerala, please do forward this to them? I hope to reach them.

 

The Left government in Kerala is gathering its international intellectual-activist support base to cash on its commendable  — ongoing — success in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  This is not new — it has always been part of the dominant Left’s hegemony-bolstering exercises, especially after the 1990s, when its unquestionable hegemony in Kerala began to face a series of challenges. It has also been forced to pay attention to the oppositional civil society which relentlessly questions the dominant Left’s fundamental understanding of social justice and forces it to take seriously such ideas as freedom, autonomy, as well as identities not reducible to class. Continue reading Why does the Left in Kerala fear Rehana Fathima and not COVID- 19?

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

निरंकुशता के स्रोत, प्रतिरोध के संसाधन : रवि सिन्हा

Guest Post by Ravi Sinha

राजनीति का आम सहजबोध यह है कि सत्ता की निरंकुशता लोकतंत्र का निषेध है। लोकतंत्र राजनीतिक सत्ता का गठन तो करता है, लेकिन उसे निरंकुश नहीं होने देता। यदि किसी लोकतांत्रिक व्यवस्था के अंतर्गत निरंकुश सत्ता का उद्भव होता है तो उसे लोकतंत्रा की दुर्बलता, उसके विकार या उसमें किसी बाहरी अलोकतांत्रिक शक्ति के हस्तक्षेप के रूप में देखा जाता है। यदि लोकतंत्र का अर्थ यह है कि सत्ता के स्रोत लोक में स्थित हैं तो यह स्वयंसिद्ध है कि लोकतांत्रिक सत्ता निरंकुश नहीं हो सकती।

इसी तरह राजनीति का सहजबोध यह भी है कि सत्ता की निरंकुशता प्रतिरोध को जन्म देती है और प्रतिरोध की जड़ें लोक में स्थित होती हैं। निरंकुशता यदि लोकतंत्र का निषेध है तो यह भी स्वयंसिद्ध है कि लोक या जन ही प्रतिरोध के मूल आधार और उसके प्रमुख संसाधन हैं। यह दूसरी मान्यता पहली के साथ जुड़ी हुई है। यदि पहली मान्यता टिकती है तो दूसरी की सत्यता भी साबित होती है। यदि पहली संदेह के घेरे में आती है तो दूसरी के स्वयंसिद्ध होने पर भी प्रश्न खड़े होते हैं।

और, प्रश्न तो खड़े होते हैं। वास्तविकता की प्रकृति ही ऐसी होती है कि वह मान्यताओं की परवाह नहीं करती – बहुप्रचलित और स्वयंसिद्ध प्रतीत होने वाली मान्यताओं की भी नहीं। दूसरी तरफ़, मान्यताओं की – ख़ास तौर पर बहुप्रचलित मान्यताओं की – बनावट और उनकी ज़मीन ऐसी होती है कि वास्तविकताओं के उलट होने के बावजूद वे चलन में बनी रहती हैं। ऐसी स्थिति में पहले तो यह देखना होता है कि वास्तविकता क्या है और संबंधित मान्यताओं से उसकी संगति बैठती है या नहीं। फिर यह अलग से देखना होता है कि मान्यताएं जब ग़लत होती हैं, तब भी उनके चलते रहने के कारण कहां पर स्थित हैं। एक तरह से यह सहजबोध की जांच-पड़ताल का समय होता है। और कभी-कभी नये सहजबोध के निर्माण का समय भी होता है।

भारत की आज की हक़ीक़त यह तो है ही कि मौजूदा सरकार के अधीन राज्य और राजनीतिक सत्ता निरंकुश हो चले हैं। संवैधानिक, संस्थागत तथा लोकतांत्रिक नियमों, नियंत्रणों और परंपराओं को रौंदा जा रहा है और व्यवस्था तथा समाज, दोनों क्षेत्रों में मनमानी की जा रही है। कश्मीर से कन्याकुमारी तक, असम से गुजरात तक, संसद से और भीमा कोरेगांव से तीस हज़ारी तक और तिहाड़ तक नंगी निरंकुशता के उदाहरण सभी के सामने हैं। लेकिन क्या सभी को यह सब दिखायी दे रहा है? Continue reading निरंकुशता के स्रोत, प्रतिरोध के संसाधन : रवि सिन्हा