Student worker1: University is under attack!
Hostel canteen worker: From what?
S: From the government; from the capitalists.
H: As in?
S: You should understand. It is part of the larger plan of new corporate governmentality. We should fight.
S: It means this is a symptom of the withdrawal of the state from public service.
H: As in?
S: It means education, which people ought to get for free, has to be subsidised, so that people can study without constraints. Now fee is increasing; university is asked to find its own money to teach. This is dilution of the promise of the state. This is commercialisation of education. This is making the university into a factory.
H: But I have never studied. My children go to a school, where through Teach for India, nice young people teach English to my kids.
S: We should oppose Teach for India too. It is part of the larger commercialisation of education. This is part of the same plan which is making our subsidised universities collapse.
H: But then what should we do?
S: You should organise. Collectively demand improvement of government schools. Demand increase in your wages. We are with you.
H: But if we strike we will be fired.
S: If you do not strike, your labor power will be exploited to the maximum.
H: That is true. So as part of the strike we will close down hostel canteen, and strike.
S. Emm. Not close down hostel canteen. Then how will the student comrades eat, and have energy to fight against the authoritarian state? You do your work in the canteen, and then join us after your work. Or we will do something. We will time the protest so that it sinks with your free time.
H: But doesn’t strike imply strike against work? What is the point of undertaking strike during our free time?
S: Yes. But, it is not against work. It is for work. It is a demand to work. Work with dignity and just pay.
H: But I don’t want to work like this. I want to be a university teacher. Like your teacher. With car, good clothes and nice cigarettes.
S: See our strike is not for a revolution of existing order of things. It is precisely a strike against the capitalist onslaught of destroying the sanctity and specialty of sites of intellectual work. Government wants to pull us down to the level of the car factory worker in Manesar. We give solidarity to all struggles of the working class.
H: Then shouldn’t you support our strike to shut down canteen?
S: See, the university is not a factory. It cannot be. What you are doing is service to the cause. It is not strictly work in the conventional sense. The work of the university is to produce knowledge. If you do not support us, your child’s education and future will be doomed.
H: My child cannot read even 1st standard book. He is in 5th standard.
S: See it is because government withdrew from public schooling. Their focus was only numbers. Terms dictated by the World Bank. We should resist and fight for quality education for all.
H: Hmmm. Ok. So how do you think I should protest?
S: Do your cooking. Then tell us what your problem is. Come sit with us during protest and after protest you can go back to the kitchen.
H: So the strike is to maintain the university as it used to function?
S: Yes. So that this place becomes a bastion of free thought and a hope for democracy.
H: But I could never speak here. And why is it that your professor and you can stay in the campus and I have to leave after my work? I am also working, you and your professors are also working.
S: We will demand housing for you. But now the issue is protecting this holy place. And come on! Your work is not like our work. There is a qualitative difference.
H: Why should you demand. You are acting like my manager.
S: You are mistaken. We are your comrades. We are all oppressed by capitalism. Our fight is symbolic of the larger fight by people in Chile, Iran, Iraq, Bolivia and all over the world.
H: But you seem to be better off than me.
S: That is just relative. I am better off because of the demands of my social reproduction as an intellectual laborer. I have to wear fab India so that I survive. Just like how your reproduction as a mess worker here demands certain symbols from you.
H: Ok. So the strike is actually to make the university a space for the professors and the students. So that you are not measured by the changing standards set by abstract labor time.
S: Exactly! You got the point.
H: But that would mean I will still be a mess worker. And my children in government schools will still be taught by stupid and precarious English speaking youth recruited by NGOs, who will sell my child’s poverty for a university seat in the West.
S: We will fight to increase your wages. You ought to be permanent. The government schools should be saved from structural adjustment programs. And you have a point there. This university, if allowed to be dictated by neo-liberal order, will be like Western Universities where we have to work under intense pressure, and we will perish if we don’t publish. The university will no longer cater to the underprivileged. This university represents the diversity of India. It needs to be saved for the poor.
H: Hmm. I think you have a point.
S: You got it. Finally!
H: I think it is not the new management of the university, but the university itself that need to be destroyed. If capitalists become my boss, or you become my boss, the law of the place persists. I will be a manual worker and you will be a mental worker. You will recruit ranks from my community into the mental fold. But there will be manual which constantly measures against the mental, and hence exploited. What you are saying is to support your strike so that we remain manual workers. I don’t think that is a solution. I think I should go on a mess strike and screw you, your professor and the university.
S: WTF! Already our degrees have no value. In the face of rising machines, we are mere replaceable workers. And everybody is getting degrees from internet. No one values liberal education and free thought. We are the future of this country. We will have to save the democracy and the people from capitalism.
H: Shut up. All your rhetoric! To protect yourself and your class from capital! At the cost of my labor. I want the university to be destroyed. Or else make a university where no one has hierarchy. I will be professor tomorrow and you will cook. Ok?
S: You are acting as a casteist and a sexist. My comrades come to the university fighting caste oppression which commanded them to be cooks; patriarchy which delegated them to the private world of the kitchen. And you are asking them to go back?
H: I am not asking them. I am asking you.
S: In the future if such a situation comes, I will be happy to do it. But now we have to protect the university.
H: No. We have to destroy the university and the process of making new boss. It doesn’t matter for me if the VC of this university is an adivasi. I will still be a mess worker. I want to be a professor.
S: You have become cynical. You are acting like a mad dog who aims to destroy all the gains that the working class has made with respect to securing free education for the masses.
H: I am realising that you and your professors are my class enemies. Not my comrades.
S: You are misquoting Marx. His fight was against capitalism. So is my party’s. Because we did not see enough revolutionary potential in the parent party, we broke off and formed a new party inspired by Mao, Che, Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar…..and whoever becomes symbol of progressive politics. We broke off for you. For the working class.
H: Fuck off! The workers need no managers. We already have computers to manage our work. Now managers to tell us how we should strike? Our fight is against all managers. You or the machines.
S: This is ideological trap. Maybe Althusser was right. See we can see how Gramsci’s thought operates here. See how internal divisions are created to destroy the class unity.
H: Son. Unity is capital’s doing. Unity of individuated workers. You fly from one situation to another. From one party to another. From one space to another. You pose unity against capital? You are a fool. Capital disintegrates, then unites. Through state, through party. You, my son, is neo-liberalism in its concreteness. If you want to fight capital, fight against you as well. As Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
S: You believe in God?
H: Revolution is not a revolution if in the end you go back to your own home. Goodbye.