What to do with the red flag?

The color red signifies both an opportunity to transcend the present and a grim reminder of the violent affirmation of the status quo.

In the lost revolution of the Spartacus League and in the successful revolution of the Bolsheviks we see the same color. We see Stalin and Sankara proclaiming fidelity to the red flag at equal measures.

We see it armed among the tribals of Orissa, with only sticks and malnourished bodies fighting POSCO and Vedanta. We also see it flying proudly on the multistoried real-estate properties of the Communist Parties in India.

We see it being used by the most oppressed to signal the powerful that they are not alone; that they belong to a class that transcends particularities. But we also see it guarded by the police, honored with state excesses and used to muzzle dissenting voices. Ironically the oppressor pays for the podiums where they are raised.

The trouble is, in both the accounts we see the same color.

But they are not the same.

While for the oppressed, what she wants is a world where the color red no longer signifies the blood of her ancestors and her children. A world where red is stripped off of its significance. A world where red does not mean anything; where a red flag is as unholy as the pages of the scriptures; where it is only functional, has lost all its symbolic values. Like a world where the scriptures can be burned to fight the cold to protect a street dog, a red flag with a star as just another rag. A world without the red flag is the ultimate aim of the symbol of red flag; to arouse us towards the fight to abolish the red flag. For a fight to abolish the red flag is nothing but the fight to abolish capital.

And what does it say about those who never want the red flag to go? For it to be triumphantly flying atop all the institutions of the state and preside over all the decisions of the collective individual. Here red flag replaces the constitution, and the abstract ordering of our lives is dictated by the color red. One flag replaces another; one system of domination another and one boss by another.

But don’t be fooled. The latter embraces the red not because they want to abolish it, but because it symbolizes the opportunity to be the new masters. For them in fact the color red actually does not signify anything. It is indeed like any other flag; the only difference is that color red means that they will be the ones sitting in presidential palaces.

Inspired by Comrade Pothik’s recital of Pasolini’s ‘To the Red Flag’ from Roman Poems


On the necessity to abolish the office and offend our fathers

All of us, wherever we are and whatever we are doing and whoever we are right now, is planning to negate our present. We do not want our present to continue into the future. We plan, we do things, we read, we overwork, we agree for extra-time and underpaying, all in the hope that our present would not continue as it is and something else will come up in the future, something that can save us from the dreadedness and loneliness of the present.

This piece is not about the pandemic conditions in which we are in. As this blog has been arguing, our lives were violently precarious even before the pandemic. During the pandemic, while for some of us work has intensified, for some of us life has become lethargic. Some of us are forced into the dangerous outside where only luck can save us from suffering and where the law is suspended, workers safety is neglected and police brutality is increased; while some us are forced into the confines of the oppressive institutions like households where whatever liberty we managed to secure for ourselves through our struggles are suspended. But in this situation we also realize that our older lives – before the pandemic – had all the conditions necessary for these exploitative workplaces and oppressive institutions to be called upon whenever there was an emergency. We did not do enough, or there wasn’t objective conditions that were conducive, for the abolition of the office and the destruction of the home. Instead we were planning even then; planning that if we somehow organised our lives, if we did one more course, or agreed to the perversity of our boss for a little more time, or the oppression of our fathers for one more year, we could escape into a new world of possibility.

So we were obedient. We pretended that the anger and frustration inside of us shouldn’t be let out, lest it affect the future, even though it could have changed the future.

Is this blog suggesting for a suicidal mission, to offend your father and slap your boss?

Not exactly.

Rather, it is being suggested that we are in a situation, with or without the pandemic, where we loathe our present. There are brief encounters in the form of affectionate love or struggles with fellow comrades for alternatives where we feel joy, the pleasures that we could collectively have. But we are not able to sustain them; the old apparent wisdom whispers within us that these joys will not last. Though it is an old wisdom, it acquires a prophetic tone in the age of capital. Things won’t last because in a social totality mediated through exchange and money, our happiness is bound to be in the form of another one’s cause. Even in the moments of joy, we are aiming to overcome the present; a present which restricts us from becoming a collective social individual.

Thus in the moment of joy and in the moments of sheer monstrosity of the present, we are aiming to abolish the present. Abolish the conditions for the present. But half a century of neo-liberalism has made us incapable to envision it in a collective term. We can only imagine it in terms of acquiring material wealth, though paradoxically people with more material wealth are also aiming to abolish their own present.

But where do we aim to reach by abolishing the present? The future is permanently foreclosed in neo-liberalism. Time is in crisis. There is no future or past; there is only present; past and future have become mere extensions of the present and the present is in crisis. The time that measured the present, clock time of capitalist abstraction, is continually dividing within itself. When we talk of the moment, are we talking about seconds, or minutes, or nano-seconds? We cannot allow the experience of time as mere presence, as a rhythm, to be non-measurable. It has to be brought into the ambit of commensurability with the existing pace of production.

Anxiety has become our permanent existence. We are worried for our future; we are worried about our present continuing into the future.

But in neo-liberal capital, it can only get worse. It is not a prophesy or a gut feeling. If if doesn’t get worse for collective humanity, it will get bad for capital. Capital has to purge living labor and materiality out of production; if it does not crisis will loom in.

So a specter haunts us, the specter of migration.

But this migration is not just in the spatial sense. Space is anyway collapsed into time in capital. We imagine a village only in terms of its intensity or pace of life vis-à-vis the city. We are constantly dreaming of a future which is different from our present. An exodus from the present.

But where do we escape into. We attempt to create other temporalities within the constraints of the present and we do manage through militant actions to sustain them for a while. But they don’t seem to last, and even when we are practicing militant practices capital is ready to subsume it within the system by recomposing and moving into a higher order of barbarism.

So end of alternatives?

Not exactly. It shows us that even when capital seems triumphant, moving from one stage to another with triumph it is being resisted by us in our presents. While the present in which we are living is subsumed in capitalist totality, it is not yet abstracted. The moment’s communal nature is oppressed and we look back at the present, in the form of past, from the vantage point of commensurability. We bring the present’s insurrectionary potential only in terms of the totality which abstracts it.

When we aim to overcome the present into a new future, the future is now being thought of as an ideal utopia, where we remove our own social production as individuated being and project the fetish form of the same individuated form into the future. Hence when we aim to overcome the exploitation of our boss or the oppression in our homes, we aim for a future where we are the boss of our own or we are our own fathers; even worse, we are the boss of others or we are the father of a new house that we would make apparently in our own terms.

We don’t imagine to disband the office or abolish the family. We dream of replacing the individuals and we as individuals strategically moving higher up the hierarchy of socio-technical division of labor.

And it is this precise condition of our existence, where our struggles have been so individualized such that we are unable to imagine a social collectivity which is of a radically different order that the present. Thus the violence of the present colors even our utopia. Corona merely affirmed our own projection, but not in our terms but in terms of our bosses and our fathers. Our bosses are now able to fire and survey us to a degree which was unimaginable before, and we now rely on the benevolence and the humanity of our fathers to not oppress the last residues of liberty that we attained over the course of our lives. We did not affirm our own necessity to abolish these institutions of exploitation and oppression, rather imagined a new order where our strategic interests are secured. We became slaves of our own utopia.

So when we think of migrating out of the present, we failed to affirm the primary character of this exodus. The negation of the given present. We can only reconstruct a future in our own terms if the present is abolished.

Or only if we aim to abolish the conditions of our present which makes our bosses exploit us and our fathers oppress us can we think of radical alternatives. Else we will merely be reproducing them, albeit in a higher order of barbarity.

This means an utopia which is not a fetish; which is not the reproduction of the existing social relations. This is a demanding task, and is in no way easy. Only concrete practices and the affirmation of the negative potential of concrete practices can break open the present which appears as ever present and ever expanding into the future.

Preliminary contribution towards a Class analysis of the Kerala Police Act 2011, Amendment 118A

Following the scrapping of the 118D of the Police Act by the SC, the LDF government led by CPI(M) introduced an amendment aimed to address the threat to private life due to cyber attacks in the state. The amendment reads: “Whoever makes, expresses, publishes or disseminates through any kind of mode of communication, any matter or subject for threatening, abusing, humiliating or defaming a person or class of persons, knowing it to be false and that causes injury to the mind, reputation or property of such person or class of persons or any other person in whom they have interest shall on conviction, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both.”

This amendment is seen as a major threat to the right to free expression and opinion and is feared to be used by the state against individuals and groups which are critical of the state.

The government in its defense pointed at the increasing instances of ” false campaigns questioning personal freedom and dignity enshrined in the constitution.” The CM pointed out that: “Women and transgender persons have been attacked mercilessly. Family relations have been affected and victims driven to suicide. People, including media heads, had demanded that there should be laws against it.” 

The Amendment was directly against the CPI(M) and left parties’ critique of similar laws at the Central level and as such is facing opposition within the party and the allies within the LDF. The Kerala Police Act 2011 itself was coming from the previous LDF government led by V S Achuthanthan and the UDF government whose Home Minister was Ramesh Chennithala. One of the provisions of the Act, 118D had provision for “punishment with imprisonment for a term. which may extend to three years with a fine not exceeding ten thousand rupees or with both” for causing “annoyance to any person in an indecent manner by statements· or verbal or comments or telephone calls or calls of any type or by chasing or sending messages or mails by any means.” This provision was itself in line with the struck down Section 66A in the IT Act 2000. The new 118A attempted to avoid the SC criticism of 66A by skillfully navigating the wordings in the Act.

While this is the background of 118A, it becomes imperative for working class politics to look into a class analysis of the Act such that contributions towards developing revolutionary theory can be initiated.

Towards a class analysis of 118A

It is true that people of all walks are under cyber attack. Especially women and transgenders. If we ascribe the noblest reason for the passage of this Amendment by the government, there can be a defense of the government decision. In fact many have argued that striking down 118D was not a coherent move by the SC. Cyberbullying is and can be very dangerous and as of now the police seems to have no tool to deal with this rising threat.

At the same time we know that what the government and state machinery aim to do with this law. Police will be powerful and that seems to be one of the most important reason for the Home Ministries across the country to resort to such laws.

We have in fact seen a lot of analysis that looks into the merits and dangers of the amendment. This piece is not to contribute to those discourses that aims to productivise these contentious positions. Rather this piece is to dwell into the political economy of the Amendment so that a Marxist class analysis of the amendment can be undertaken to invite discussions along this line.

A class analysis of the Amendment is not an easy task, but is the necessity for the working class to self-emancipate and this is ground from which this piece arises.

State and government
We tend to equate the actions of the government to that of the CM and a handful of bureaucrats. What we miss here is the discourse of State and being blind to the state form and correspondingly miss the forest for the trees. What we see as actions of a particular CM or a government is in fact the actions of the state. If the state could not get the government to do its bidding, it will get rid of the CM and the government. And if so, what is the state? Is state the government, the bureaucracy, the judiciary or a combination of all these institutions? While state appears in these institutional form, state is essentially what the term literally means viz. state of affairs. And thus state is the social relation that we share with each other as individuated citizen subject under the historically specific socio-economic formation that is capitalism. And by socio economic formation, we mean the particular social and technical composition of the labor force that constitute the particular societal form that we live in. Each of us has a place in the technical composition of capital. And the technical class composition, informed by the social composition which is historically determined with respect various cultures, is the logic of capital that is imposed on to us as a rational system of ordering the social totality. But following Marx and Adorno we know that this rationality is fundamentally irrational. The Keynesian consensus and the organised labor resistance that we witnessed during the Planned phase of capitalist expansion was from the perspective of capital. It was not aimed at abolition of the historically specific form of labor in capitalism. Rather the base from which the institutional communist parties of India arose was by agreeing to this consensus, though labor in its concrete struggle was aimed at precisely negating this organisation. Whenever labor was militant and couldn’t be contained within organised form, a challenge was posed to the communist parties about its very form and its relation to capital. The institutional communist parties with its organisation aimed at capturing state power through elections so as to change it, and the left-wing communist parties aimed to overthrow the Indian state through armed rebellion do not seem to dwell into the question of state as social relation and what a Leninist theory of state would look like in neo-liberalism. From the actions of the CPI(M) government since the 1990s, from people’s planning to self-financing colleges to fake-encounters to open corruption to business take-over of party decisions to the present police-state norm, it is clear that CPI(M) has been working as the arm of the state to implement its policies lest the political class composition – signaling how labor organises against capitalist technical composition – disrupt the very organisation of the state and its institutions. We must, following Holloway and the Open Marxist positions, resist from the bad theorisation that gives state a sense of relative autonomy which the CPI(M) has been proposing to us through its various front workers. They say that CPI(M) has been trying hard to help the people, and in some areas successfully so irrespective of the neo-liberal onslaught. Like the case of the floods, Nippah or through social security measures. But as this blog has been arguing, it is not the state or a government that helped us. It is we, the multitude that acted as a communist subject that saved us. The government and the party has been instrumentalising this collective action so that the socio-technical divisions divisions through which capital recomposes can continue unhindered. The government is the manager of the state. And the party is the manager of the government now. Imagine the situation in which the ‘communists’ are in. They have to fight hard to manage the socio-technical division of labor so that capitalist accumulation can continue with heightened violence.

The role of the law

Law or juridically is through which the separation of the economic and the political is ensured by the state. Capitalism necessary has to put labor to work and the creative process within capitalism can only be undertaken by labor. But this process is replete with disruption as far as capital is concerned. The abstraction from concrete labor process necessarily demands the presence of equal individuated human subjects as Marx argues in Capital. Juridicality is about this abstraction from concrete practices. There is indeed a sociology of law; about how law is applied in each situation. But this sociology conveniently forgets the basic question regarding abstraction involved in law. How is it that human subjectivities engaged in qualitatively different concrete practices be made commensurable such that mediation or exchange is possible in the first place? Institutional state form is the formal structure that ensures that law and abstraction is ensured.

The concrete practices of labor, like strike or rebellion or violence is a possibility and a necessity for the juridical to recompose itself so that there is no interruption to the production process. At this juncture it is necessary to quote Benjamin’s critique of law and violence: “Law’s interest in the monopoly of violence vis-à-vis individuals is explained not by the intention of preserving legal ends but, rather by the intention of preserving the law itself; that violence, when not in the hands of the law, threatens it not by the ends that it may pursue but by its mere existence outside the law.” The actions of the cyber bullies, it follows from Benjamin and Agamben, is law-making violence which is necessary for the preservation of the law through the action of the state as law-preserving violence. Thus the cyber-bullies and CPI(M) led government are not on the opposite side of law. To think so would be anti-dialectic and against the grain of Marx. Rather they are dialectically related to the social form of the status quo itself. The action of a cyber bully in Kerala invited violent response from some women in the state who were the target of the bullies. The women’s actions were justified by some and condemned by others. While CPI(M) as a party could have different opinion about the incident, for the law such actions cannot be allowed not because of the violence involved but because it directly threatens the law itself. And in the conditions of post-Fordism, civil war of identities has replaced class struggle and the state recomposition occurs through instrumentalising this civil war of identities. But there is always a constant threat that the civil war would threaten the juridicality itself and questions the separation of the economic and the political and move towards a Mass Strike. This is a risk that the law cannot afford to because it can slip into generalisation and be a moment of Messianic violence that breaks through the temporality of the capitalist time.

The task of working class inquiry is not to fall into either of the positions or to dwell into abstract categories. Rather it is to show that the cyber bullies and the government form a single line, against whose logic the working class has to break free from. Cyber bullies exist and reactions to cyber bullies also exist. The state form in its neo-liberal barbaric form recomposes itself through the civil war between identitarian divisions, in our case in the form of the cyber bully and the reaction to cyber bully. We must not fall in this trap. Rather we must ask what would be a critique of cyber bullying entail in the contemporary? How can we pose such a question without asking the very organisation of the cyber space in the first place and the collective control of the commons?

We have to go back to our theoretical basis and as Benjamin proposes, make a distinction between the political general strike of which CPI(M) is an authority and the proletarian general strike which aims to precisely destroy all these agents who claim to represent the working class. Benjamin had warned us that for the partisans of the former namely the moderate socialists, for us CPI(M) and its cadre: “the strengthening of the state power is the basis of their conceptions; in their present organisations the politicians […] are already preparing the ground for a strong centralised and disciplined power that will be impervious to criticism from the opposition, and capable of imposing silence and issuing its mendacious decrees. The political general strike demonstrates how the state will lose none of its strengths […].” Against this position is the proletarian general strike whose sole task is the destruction of the state power. It is against all mediations and representative apparatus. It is about inquiring into the materiality of concrete situations; or concrete analysis of concrete situations as Lenin put forward.

And history has shown us the limits of the former and the repeated defeat of the latter. But the first step towards a revolutionary transformation of sociality is our acceptance that we are a defeated lot. And yet, we adhere to this defeated tradition. And the foundation of this tradition is class analysis.

Rethinking critical pedagogy for insurrectionary politics

We talk a lot about children in our educational discourses. In fact we even wrote a NCF based on child-centric learning – NCF 2005. Constructivists and multiculturalists along with the institutional Left joined hands with the UPA-I in 2004 to make the new NCF for our schools so that Saffronisation could be stopped, and utter helplessness of our children in schools could be addressed somehow. And we attached critical pedagogy to critical thinking of students.

But 15 years down the line, we know that both the objectives were lost. Sangh Parivar has never been so strong and unbeatable. Children now are guinea pigs for all experiments and interventions. There might never have been such a generation growing up with such intense and severe competition, alienation and segregation like the millennials. The institutions that spearheaded NCF 2005 are all in ruins. Those academicians and liberals have become so redundant that all of them are scrambling for a place in the Webinars organised by new precarious contractualised academicians. If they don’t do that, in first place they don’t know what their purpose in life is – the post-modern condition – and secondly, they don’t know how they will find a post-retirement job so that they can fund their children’s expensive education in Ashoka University or under-paid stints in the Teach-for-Indias or their own high standard of living that separates them from the contract teachers whose labor actually sustained their teaching career througout.

What went wrong? How did a policy that was unprecedented in its consultation procedure with the ‘stakeholders’ and participation from states and NGOs and educationists produce such a contrasting output? Was it not the most ‘massive’ and hence participatory document on education ever produced? How did a generation that learned the story of partition from the perspective of Pakistan and numerous examples of Nazi and ethnic nationalism, as outline in the textbooks made along NCF 2005, allow the open lynching of Pehlu Khan and other Muslims? How come the teachers feel so drained, exploited, precarious and powerless like never? How come the democratic institutions whose detailed democratic characters and how they should be protected as outlined in the Social Science textbooks of NCF 2005 fail, and no one seems to know what to do? How is that schooling and higher education has become so damn expensive?

Is this the failure of the implementation of NCF 2005 or is it because there has been a selective implementation of proposals proposed by our liberal academia that spear-headed the NCF or is it because the government withdrew its commitment towards education based on social justice or is it the failure of the theory of change as proposed by the NCF 2005 itself?

Multiculturalists thought that if they propose the virtues of civic citizenry, children will understand, critically reflect and practice a civic democracy. Some said secularism should be taught while others said it was a Western import. NCF 2005 was made at a time when the capitalist triumph seemed to be complete. It was the end of history. What more could any radical critique offer? The most that CITU or AICTU or SFI could do was to bark at how government lost the opportunity to ‘change’ education in the country. Some leftists cried that the chance of common schooling was lost during RTE Act and it diluted ‘radical’ opportunity to rectify schooling in India. Some others cried at the lack of emphasis on Capital in textbooks and thus it was a capitalist tool.

But is this the most a working class politics can offer? If so what use is this politics and how is it better than any bourgeoise ideology?

What is fundamentally missing is a class analysis of education in India. And what is a class analysis? Is it to look at how government funding reduced and how the whims of WTO and World Bank got implemented through structural adjustment measures? Is it to look at how teaching become completely neo-liberal? Is it to look into the deep divide between the rich and poor? Is it to show how BJP is saffronising textbooks?

The answer is that these while point towards a class analysis is not class analysis for the working class in terms of theory that can inform the practice of appropriating the world from the capitalist class for ourselves. We need to take the world away from them and in during this doing, we need to change the world too. This, and nothing else, is the task of working class inquiry into education. How can we destroy how education is organised in the contemporary so that our uninterrupted exploitation by capital can be stopped and we take charge of education as a class taking charge of itself?

Do we need to preserve the form of the schools and the form of the colleges and just tweak the content of what and how some lessons are taught and then expect that capitalism can be overcome? Do we include all diverse experiences of identity claims and expect that a farcical pedagogical process, that too to be implemented by underpaid and contractual teachers who in most likelihood will be casteist, sexist and classist, will automatically raise the consciousness of students and the masses, and will abolish the violent hierarchical separations that mark the socio-technical division of labor in neo-liberal capital? Do we expect that if somehow we manage to teach the kids to read and write – like the minimum learning levels of the World Bank chamchas – the students will read and write and will somehow get out of their horrid state of abject poverty and absolute exploitation? Do we not see how the industry-school-college-NGO-government nexus operate to continuously regiment our dissent and keep us in check? Do we not see how one set of people are used to control another set and in the process reproduce the precise exploitative relations in new forms?

But then, what is to be done?

An example is, in fact right in front of our eyes. The Mass Strike at Shaheen Bagh and the emergence of critical pedagogy right in the middle of the struggles.

There were liberal and left comedians who taught the children of Shaheen Bagh literacy, art and school textbooks (remember those fools who taught and listened to constitution lectures in JNU and couldn’t even mobilize themselves to occupy JNU, expel the VC and his chamchas or defend against ABVP goons when they were mercilessly beating up their comrades with the help of local landlords and police, and all they could do was to make a book for HarperCollins India to sell). There were bourgeois academicians who ‘studied’ them to see their helplessness or their agency. There were entitled class enemies in the form of rich university students who thought it was fine to click their picture and post in Instagram. There were opportunists who wasted no time to stick their meaningless flags, of all colors, right in the middle of the struggle. There were youth who had lost any purpose in life and who thought that joining them would give them one.

But what did Shaheen Bagh teach us about education and what insights did it give to critical pedagogy?

What it taught was as Rosa Luxemburg told us about the power of the movement and force of struggle to educate the masses in an instance which stands outside the clock time set by the capitalist abstraction. In their occupation of the highway and the subsequent struggle that they began, the masses in Shaheen Bagh showed us the real insight of Freire and Marx. It is not in the classrooms nor from any textbooks nor from the lectures of an enlightened master that one learn critical pedagogy. In fact critical pedagogy can never be learned or taught. It can only be practiced. And that is the insight of Shaheen Bagh. In the continuous course of the struggle and in the living political school, as Rosa says, critical pedagogy was born in the specificity of the Shaheen Bagh moment. And in its specificity it posed the universal class question – how can oppression and exploitation meted to out bodies be overcome by the collective class action of the multitude. The Women defied the Home, Children their Fathers, Men their Bosses – all those historical forms of oppression which appear in the form of conservatism in Islam stood broken in the movement. But Muslim-ness also gained a universal meaning there, by precisely breaking what a Muslim was.

Imagine if during the occupation of Shaheen Bagh we were to tell the kids of Shaheen Bagh to go to schools lest they fail in their classes. In that moment we also realised the precise role of the schools. It is not to deny the struggles that workers – students, teachers and cleaning staff and drivers and all various socio-technical divisions in a school-factory – take up in schools. But these struggles are precisely to overcome how schools are organised both internally and externally,. They all want the form of the school to be destroyed and in their concrete labor they destroy the forms of schools. But schools recompose themselves so that these struggles are themselves used for the next moment of accumulation. And what does Shaheen Bagh has to tell us about schooling?

Shaheen Bagh tells us that only real movements can educate the masses. All other forms of educations conceal the class struggle hidden within the structures of the schooling process. While Shaheen Bagh could not take the movement to its logical culmination – Mass Strike and the subversion of the social factory – it was a glimpse into the practice of critical pedagogy, subverting the given forms of education organised along schools and teachers and students.

This has also been the teaching of workers in the automobile factories in and around Delhi. They occupied the factory floors and refused the mediation of the bootlicking unions and managers. They too realized that it is either socialism or barbarism. And the spark of critical pedagogy need to be located in these sites and critical pedagogy should be saved from the academicians who make a fetish out of the revolutionary core of critical pedagogy – no struggle without education and no education without struggle.

The curious case of Azim Premji Foundation and the new NEP 2020: How and why big business takes over education policy during post-Fordism

Azim Premji Foundation (APF) is a major NGO in India that began its operations in the early 2000s in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. It was started and funded by the IT giant Mr. Azim Premji who decided it was best to invest in the school education of India if he were to give away his huge wealth for the purpose of charity. APF was registered as a Private Limited company in 2000, and later in 2001 it was registered under the Section 25 of the Indian Companies Act of 1956. The Companies Act, 1956 was amended in 2000 so that trusts which get tax exemption and those which hold shares in a company can now get voting rights instead of the earlier provision where the voting rights of such trusts were stripped off and voting was entrusted with a public trustee appointed by Government of India. While the new provision in The Companies Act, 2013 too does not strip the trust of voting rights, in 2019 the Azim Premji Trust is reported to have not received voting rights following the transfer of Mr. Premji’s share to the corpus of the Trust. Instead the voting rights in Wipro remain with the Premji family, which will ensure that the family will have final say with respect to both Wipro and APF. APF also started Azim Premji University (APU) following the BJP government in Karnataka’s decision to encourage private enterprises to set up universities. In the next half-a-decade the Karnataka government passed 13 private university bills, including that of APU, and none of these bills faced any debates in the legislature, nor were any opposition members present during the passage.  

            The Foundation has been undertaking commendable work in the school education of many state in India and have played a supporting role in the drafting of the National Curriculum Framework of 2005, which was made following the controversial NCF 2000 of the NDA-I. The NCF 2005 has been regarded as a significant achievement in terms of emphasis on child friendly learning methods and attention paid to the locale of the child and the school. It also emphasized a more liberal view of Indian history and made textbooks that valued the development of a civic citizenry in India. The likes of the late Prof. Yash Pal and Prof Krishna Kumar led the NCF 2005, and APF’s contribution is mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of NCF 2005 and this is in light of its contribution in organising seminars in collaboration with various state governments (p. v of NCF 2005). APF is acknowledged before any other organisation and this rank in the order of formal acknowledgement places it among the most important ‘consultant’ outside of the drafting committee.

            The school education field of India witnessed significant changes in the second half of the 2000s and a large number of NGOs with the support of big business and banks began to enter the public school system of India. These corporate NGOs began to change the urban education landscape of India by bringing in principles of New Public Management within the governance of public schools in urban centers like Mumbai, Delhi etc. and began to re-organise policy making in line with corporate thinking. At the same time they changed the perception of ‘social-work’ from a traditional charity work undertaken by committed individuals or groups to that of a professional activity undertaken in strict managerial post-Taylorist framework of the late-capitalist production process. Young graduates compete with each other to secure a position as an overworked and underpaid temporary worker in remote parts of the country or in the slums of the city. The brand value of the corporates backing the NGOs make it possible for the better off among these youth to sell their experience of hardship for a university seat in prestigious universities or a well-paid position in a corporate company. The NGOs in turn sell the quality and social background of these youth to their funders to secure further funding and lobby for coveted positions in government planning.   

            While APF was a brand apart from these other NGOs – in the sense that it was one among the few which did not require to seek funding every financial year – it was deeply embedded in the working of these NGOs through its university – APU – that it began in 2011. The students of APU get internship in these NGOs and they get placed to these NGOs after their course. The alumni of the university of APF holds important positions – both in the administration and in the field level – in these NGOs, and the university in turn sells its brand through the labor of its students and alumni to the government and public. The faculty members of the University form the new fluid post-modern subject who navigate different workplaces – stretching from universities to NGOs to think tanks to co-operatives to government bodies – across space and time and play important role in the overall new educational field of India.

The case of the new NEP 2020 and APF

The first committee to make a new NEP was formed under the former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian and the process began in 2015. The recommendations of this committee was made available for feedback, but due to differences within stakeholders and changes in the leadership of MHRD, the government formulated a new Committee under K Kasturirangan to create the new NEP for India. The 2017 circular of MHRD mentions the members of this committee and an addendum which is now (31st July, 2020) missing from the MHRD website apparently talks about the ‘coopted’ members of the Committee for the draft NEP. When the Draft NEP 2019 was released, the name of Anurag Behar, the CEO of Azim Premji Foundation and VC of its University, finds mentioning. In 2019, interestingly Mr Azim Premji had visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur to pay tribute to late Golwakar, one of the prominent early chiefs of the organisation. The CEO of Mr. Premji’s Foundation finds mentioning as a Member of the Drafting Committee of the Draft NEP along with Leena Wadia of the Observer Research Foundation, a major NGO think tank that brings together big business, academia and governments across the globe in one platform.

            The formal membership in the Drafting Committee of MHRD is a significant upward mobility for APF which was playing a mere consultant role during 2005, when public universities and academicians who were directly engaged in education played a major role in drafting the NCF 2005. APF has now been literally found to be writing the educational policy of the country that will decide the future course of action of education affecting more than a billion people. And interestingly enough the VC of APU does not have a doctorate degree – a norm that is followed in almost all Universities in the world – and have degrees in engineering and business. While degrees might not reflect the talent or interest of an individual, considering the condition of higher education in India, this becomes important as the VC is one among the four members of the Drafting Committee entrusted to write the new education policy for a billion-plus people. The official summary of Draft NEP introduces APF CEO as a ‘Professor’ (p.37) and asks the billion people to believe in this title when he hasn’t really taught in any college or hasn’t ever engaged directly in any pedagogical activity. His qualification is that he manages the wealth of an IT giant for certain philanthropy. And is the boss of a thousand plus workers who actually labor in real situations in various parts of India. While the Indian Government has the authority to appoint suitable individuals as they deem fit for the purpose of the new NEP, and it is not the aim of this piece to point fingers at an individual, these background checks of the process along with the fact that big business is now really investing in the education field across the world raises some important concerns.

            And nowhere else can one find the manifestation of the inclusion of Big Business and the shifting discourses in higher education than the new NEP 2020 approved by the GoI. What role does big business play in the policy landscape of India is best reflected in how the principles of corporate management and post-Fordist dispersal characteristic of production process in late-capitalism runs throughout the course of the document. While the document as such has steered clear of RSS agenda of saffronising, or the more controversial Hindi imposition, it did pay some respect to certain RSS positions, albeit more as lip service. This lip service is more along the line of culture and fundamental duties while serious swadeshi and anti-privatisation emphasis of organisations like Swadeshi Jagran Manch have been sidelined. This ensures that the policies does not affect big business or privatization and satisfies the Hindutva elements in the party.

            The starting emphasis of NEP 2020 is its categorical emphasis on support systems that facilitate learning. Thus learning outcome becomes the central organising principle of the document and this might be informed from the experience of APF that works in some of the most backward locations in India. Most students cannot read basic texts, and in such a situation what is the point of building institutions that assume that the students have basic foundational literacy and arithmetic skills? That is a logical point. But the emphasis on learning outcome – in terms of measurable accepted skills, where measurement might not imply the traditional standardized form or evaluation for the sake of evaluation – pushes the other questions to secondary level; mainly how will this learning be organised. The clever organisation of NEP 2020 is such that if one agrees with the basic principle – namely that learning is the aim of education – of NEP, one would logically follow that the existing system is in efficient or incapable of delivering this basic principle.  

            The realization that automation is pushing people across the world towards unemployment and heightened uncertainty, and the corollary position that education should equip the students to deal with this exemption from production process is in fact the only logical position any document can propose during post-Fordism. The new workforce will be competing with the rising power of the machines, and to effectively do that, all of the human capabilities compartmentalized during the era of industrial production under the Planner state model has to be brought together. Labor has become truly functionally simplified and any skill that the worker possess can easily be taken over by the machines. There is no need of specialization as specialized work can be done by a machine. What is needed is a workforce which is obedient to the command of neo-liberal capital and in whose disposal all the sensuous and creative capacity of the human kind is provided with as a capsule in the form of multi-discplinary education. Thus more than learning itself – learning to become citizens or learning to become skilled workers or learning to resist etc. – the idea that learning to learn become central. Because the students cannot stay alive in post-Fordism with mere information, because information has become democratic and are deposited in the virtual world, an education policy in 2020 can only do what is obvious; pretending to help the students through the apparent destruction of old forms of institutions and creation of new forms.

But this destruction of the institutions of the Planner state model has already happened. The policy is just catching up. In fact the tragedy is that while post-Fordist dispersal has truly freed workers from specialsations,  the old forms of organisation of production persists. Thus while it makes no sense to have specialized centers like IITs or JNUs because the necessary labor that humans contribute in modern production has been displaced, they are remodeled so that they exist, along with new private and philanthropic institutions, to continuously provide the socio-technical division of labor through which the state itself recomposes itself. Thus the new institutions that the NEP propose – new in terms of completely new or modified old institutions – are all aimed at cross-disciplinarily. Precisely because the post-modern subject of late capitalism – like the employees of APF and APU – are expected to perform a range of new tasks. The teachers of APU for example should teach, should publish, should do field work, should conduct advertisement campaigns, should act as personal mentors to young people and should find happiness in what they do; all while following a non-disclosure of salary statement. They will be evaluated by the ‘invisible hand’ of the market personified in the form of APF and the managers. Thus while they are competing against their colleagues so that they will not be fired during the next appraisal, they should also be multi-disciplinary so that when the company fires them they are equipped to find a new job not yet taken over by machines. This principle of APF and APU and all the corporate run institutions and companies is reflected from page one to the last page of NEP 2020.  

Only this flexibility – and nothing else – matters for Big Business and the new NEP 2020. All that appears in other forms of Sanskrit imposition or making India a global power or liberal choice option for students or emphasis on early literacy or push towards universal enrollment or 50% enrollment in higher education is just farce. One can leave after first, second, third or fourth year of college and in the production of contemporary it is indeed the case. Qualifications does not say anything anymore because it doesn’t matter in the corporate workplace of Wipro if an engineer is good in mathematics. What matters is if the worker – designated with a name ‘engineer’, that needs to qualified with so many other variables like class, caste, gender and other social hierarchies – can communicate with other worker so that the machine runs uninterrupted. If the student leaves in year one or two or three or four doesn’t matter. Because the skill of the worker that he is supposed to have learned from higher education is displaced anyway. Higher education has long been devoid of content. Not just higher education, but the general life itself has been devoid of content following the dispersal of the factory into society. And companies are benefitting from this. The billionaires of the world has been seeing their wealth multiply manifold. Big businessmen are now pre-occupied with charity and helping the poor. Why is it so? Because everyday life – mere existence – has become the site of direct accumulation. Even in our free time we work for Facebook or Google or Amazon. The biologisation of human body has made it a further rich ground of accumulation in the form of big pharma and big-tech companies. The pension funds and salaries and welfare funds lubricates the shares of big banks and corporations.

For modern production in its current variant the only thing that matters is that we merely live. And all other forms of its benevolence or democratic spirit has been gone. It is gone precisely because it is no longer needed for capitalist accumulation. The NEP 2020 made sure that it talks about the well wishes of the ‘true philanthropic private’ entities and how it is important to include them in the educational field of India.

Just imagine the case in which the ‘democracy’ is in. A billionaire starts a trust in which he has complete control. He then enters the policy domain as a supporter. Then he appoints his secretary who is not technically qualified by the norms of the same educational system to write the policy of a nation consisting of more than a billion people where he makes the state write that activities like his should be encouraged. While this piece only talks about one big corporation, it is implied that corporations have truly integrated themselves with governments now whose role is merely to govern – without asking questions and forever thankful of the benevolence of billionaires.      

The last point was made not to push public universities to be the drafters of the NEP or that government now should be made answerable to questions. Rather it is precisely to say that we are in a condition of existence where we are seeing governments and big business as one. We can no longer separate our boss and our minister. They are becoming quite literally ONE.

The only option is to choose between continuing this treatment meted out to us as those who do not matter qualitatively but only matter quantitatively in terms of how much profit our living can give the billionaires against our death, or to take matters into our hands and destroy the representative mechanism which sell us in the façade of representing us. This destruction cannot be imagined in terms of entrusting ourselves in new managers of the state or companies; rather it should be imagined as something that we do in our own terms, in terms of the proletariat that we have not yet become. Not to capture state power or vote an apparent democratic party. Rather to see through mechanisms of representations and question oppressive regimes through which our continual exploitation is ensured by Big Business.

A call for Communists against the State in the midst of the pandemic in India

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?

                                                                                                      – Psalms 11:3

The response to COVID-19 in India has been appalling. At the same time we see diverse kinds of responses to the virus across India. There is a Center which did what everyone expected it will do. There are states which responded with varying degree of preparation and alarm. There is Delhi from where migrants are walking back to their villages by foot. There is UP and Bihar which are refusing to take their people who are walking from Delhi. There is Kerala which is lauded as the best state in India which fights against COVID-19, and this piece is focussed on Kerala government’s effort to fight the virus. It is indeed far batter in terms of management of crisis in India. It has a better health infrastructure, a better local self-government and on top of that it has a Communist Party – CPI(M) – led government which organises the massive campaign and surveillance against the virus and the human-carriers-of the virus. The migrant laborers are treated better in Kerala and have been provided all the basic necessities to sustain their life. They are even addressed as guest-workers, either in a paternalistic mode to deny them equal political rights or in an inclusionary mode to ensure that they are well treated in their local milieu and public imagination, at least discursively hoping that it will permeate in their everyday experience of exclusion. Yes they will live, most likely the only state where this would happen. The media is with the government, the people are with the government and it is already considered as a model for other state to follow. The opposition to the Kerala model seems to come only from vested interest who wish to tarnish the government for their own ulterior motive. There could be other levels of critique to the statist response to the virus in terms of its specific science or in terms of how some politicians might be using it as a PR exercise or the long terms impact of the lock down on economy which seems to be the concern of some economists and states. But what this piece is concerned about is something else.

It is about whether the Kerala response is a Communist response to the pandemic and if it is not, what can a Communist response look like.

Or being in and against Capital, how can we, the communists, materialise and imagine a concrete communist utopia through the specificity of this crisis. .

“Should we be concerned about communism or capitalism in the midst of a pandemic? Sure the pandemic could have originated due to the destruction of eco-systems for capitalist expansion. But is it the time to talk about it now? Is it important to talk about what ideology the state is following in the midst of a crisis, one which is unprecedented and where the co-operation of the whole of society is necessary to fight the virus? Isn’t it aimed at dividing people which can result in a divided response to this virus?”

“Shouldn’t we stop talking about this and start listening and obeying what is told to us? Or what we know what we should in the middle of the pandemic if we do not want to ‘obey’ anyone? After all no one could have foreseen this nor any health system could have ever been prepared for such a pandemic. The state is doing everything it can in its very limited capacity, in the midst of the apathy by the Center, to help the people who are within its administrative territory whether they are Malayalis or non-Malayalis, across regional, religious and classist divisions. The CM, the ministers, the bureaucracy, the people and everyone is fighting day and night against this virus. Compare them with the Center and other states, even other country like the US or Italy. And you are now assessing their actions in an arm-chair within the comforts of your room? This is another level of hypocrisy”

If you thought these sentences in your mind, I am asking you to rethink politics in the midst of this pandemic. Because, even if one agrees or not, this situation is indeed like or is a Mass Strike. Not like the hartal that we are used to in Kerala where it has lost its revolutionary meaning of stopping production and instead became a fetish, one that has the appearance but has no organic relation to the concrete class question. It is a Mass Strike not in terms of labor, so far, but it is a Mass Strike from above. But it can be converted to a Mass Strike, in terms of Us, the Commons. Because capitalist re-composition following this crisis is not yet. So it can be seized by Us.

For Capital, the abstract universal, it doesn’t matter if a state is managed by the Communist Party or the Sangh Parivar or Pinarayi Vijayan or Amit Shah. All that matters is how can it successfully productivise the social co-operation of human subjects, as individuated and alienated beings, without this social co-operation becoming something that turns it back and challenging capitalist social relations, how can the principle of exchange that lubricates social mediation persist in the midst and after the crisis and how can social hierarchies exist or recompose so that value mediates their relation with each other and place each category in quantitative hierarchical relation with others.

If we are indeed in the midst of a Mass Strike, we should remember that ‘Communists like Us’ believe in the dialectical relation between objective social conditions and subjective forces present in a Mass Strike. It is the militant subjects who carry out the Mass Strike in a particular historical conjuncture whose terms are dictated by the specificity of the local situation. The objective social condition now demands us to co-operate, to stop everything that we as individuated laboring subjects have been doing so far; but not a full-stop lest production stops completely. This co-operation that is now demanding of us can be along two terms. Either in terms of the status-quo, which appears as the State, where we act within a state of emergency thrusted upon us from above and we co-operate in silence and in obedience as the perfect constitutional subject of this farcical democracy just so that we overcome this situation so that after this situation we can go-back to how things were into higher levels of barbarism where our very being, in terms of even sheer biological existence, will be under surveillance and mercy of the capital-state nexus. Or we can take charge of the situation, as social individuals, through the crisis that is opened up before us and refuse the terms of capital and state and refuse to be part of a regime of accumulation which has revealed no concern for humanity or nature and offers only apocalyptic future in the midst of a pandemic. We can refuse to take part in further regimentation and higher levels of barbarism that Capital and State can take us. We can refuse as Communists.

“But how can that happen in the midst of a pandemic? Should we think of political strategies now or should we collectively help the state to fight the pandemic and then do politics? Also the expertise to fight the pandemic, the science and the machinery and the medical laborers, are with the state. The state decides whom to treat, who should be helped and who should be saved. And we have no choice other than to obey the state. We don’t know what to do when state, through the police and the lumpen elements or the concerned civic-citizens, enforces lock down that forces millions into a deep and a bottomless situation. At the same time what else can the state also do in this situation? It is helpless too. We don’t know what to do when the workplaces that we work in have suddenly become unstable and are looming towards deep crisis. We don’t know if after the crisis, if there will ever be an after, what will happen to our jobs, our disrupted school and college year, our destroyed crops, our status as immigrant workers across the globe and our status as human beings. We will need the state after the crisis too. To help re-build the world. The state in turn needs our support to re-build.”

“This is a standstill. Standstill of not just our earlier mode of existence or production, but a standstill of time and of politics. Let it pass, let people survive with their lives and then we can do polemics or politics.”

“But what are you in this blog suggesting anyway?”

” And if you are suggesting an alternative, ‘what is to be done?’ And why do you call it communists against even the CPI(M)? Shouldn’t the communists of the world unite to uphold Party’s response not just here but in countries like Cuba who are our comrades in the fight against neo-liberal assault on the public? After all it is a matter of how different forms of state are prepared to fight in conditions of deep crisis. And we are seeing that Left governments and societies where socialist thinking and doing have been present are faring better. It is a matter of which kind of state and not state as such”

“It could also be the case that CPI(M) is not exactly following the communist path, if there is any. Pinarayi Vijayan might be acting like Mukesh Ambani, or even better in terms of New Public Management principles. But so what? The situation demands it. We all are seeing what is happening in Italy, Spain and now in US. Do you want Kerala to be like them? We are a poor state and we don’t have the resources to fight like developed countries. So preparation is the only way to survive and CPI(M) is doing good. We hope Pinarayi was our PM. Don’t bring an assessment of their degree of closeness to communism here. Please.”

“And shouldn’t the response be a call for greater statist responsibility, an accelerated effort from the part of the state, like in a war, to proactively take charge of the situation, nationalise health care, support labor rights, ensure an acutally-existed-socialist model where state took care of everything? What is this Communism that you are talking about?”

This piece is to propose that it is not the form of the state that matters but state as social relation which is revealed that needs to be challenged if we are to think of a Communist response to the virus. After all it has become evident across the world that the state decides whom to treat and what response it should take in times of pandemic; whom to evacuate and whom to let die. State evacuated hundreds from foreign countries in flights but let millions walk and die within. The case of Kerala is considered here because it appears to be different and is seen as the best response to the epidemic. But is this the best that humanity can offer against the virus? Is there is nothing more that we can do except to expect the state to instrumentalise the collective action of the Kudumasree women, prisoners, fishermen, college students and the common (wo)men during times of crises and once the crisis is passed, everyone goes back to their own hierarchised and oppressive social location through the instrumentalisation of which capital and state re-organises? Crisis shows us the power of the Commons. Common not in the sense of the traditional community. We have seen, in Kerala, during the floods and during Nippah and even now that it is not the community in the traditional sense, static and identitarian, that fought hand in hand with us. Traditional community marked along neighborhood or identity failed to help us. It was the Common that fought for us. It was we who fought for us. But if we fought for us, what did we do to this Common after those crises? And if we did not do anything, what did Capital and the state do to this Common after the crisis?

“Wasn’t it the government machinery which helped us survive those outbreaks? The State through its arms collected resources from around the world and collated them for our survival. Wasn’t it so?”

Was it? Wasn’t it the collective Common, which did not have a prior given form, that emerged in and through the crisis that took us through the biggest floods that Kerala witnessed then? Wasn’t it the anonymous and the socialised bodies that came about in the concrete situation that saved us? Wasn’t it the medical community across the globe and the underpaid hospital nurses and anganwadi workers that helped us get through the Nippah crisis? Did they require a manager in their work? Maybe they did. The situation may have demanded it. But why is it that their managers remain their managers even after the demand of the situation and they continue to work in inhuman and underpaid settings? In the midst of the Common action, there were no cameras; and Common action did not wait for the state to come in and tell us what we should do. No state could have created a sense of brotherhood that we shared in the moment of crisis. But the state came in, and so did many levels of mediation. In those moments of break, we experienced communism. In the moments of horror we witnessed hope. When we were neck deep in flood water, we understood the barbarism of our everyday lives. But why did the charge of the situation went from the Common to the state?

We indeed have experienced the glimpse of a communist response to crisis. It was not under the banner of any party or trade union though it was productivised by all political shades and the state itself later. While this collective action, spread across the globe, was fetishised and the mediation of money and value kicked in soon, we ought to remember that it was not market logic that helped us. It was the collective human action, like the feeling of a unified body that we experience when we fight against injustice in the streets, that saved us.

But the state also saw our collective action. And its only job then, if we remember, was to appeal and direct this Common action like a bureaucrat directing production. There were moments of break within the state. We saw in the people who managed the state – the ministers and the Party – a glimpse of their utter helplessness in front of a crisis. And the state learned from this. The state realised that this collective action can indeed be commanded, controlled and regimented. The state could become the bureaucrat precisely because we did not let this collective action to reach its logical culmination. Its logical culmination was to challenge the social hierarchies and social relations of production that made the social factory. If we were true to our instinct during the time of crisis, we would have challenged the exploitative and oppressive social systems that rendered this Common an impossibility to realise during normal time. Who would have thought that the impoverished fishermen would be taking charge of the rich and NRI neighborhoods of Chengannur? But we let the state to take charge. We let capital to take charge. Then what happened? This Common was instrumentalised so that the labor of the human subjects that constituted this Common was brought into exchange relations. State managed the crisis by not abolishing social hierarchies but by using social hierarchies.

And this was brought in through the static and hierarchical division of labor among social categories. There are specialists and the specialists are with the state. There are hospitals but the hospitals are with the state. And if it is not with the state, it is with the rich and the powerful. Even in the absence of the state we reproduce state in our social relationship with others. But this moment of capitalist regime of accumulation has offered us a possibility to exist beyond the reach of the expertise of the state. We can take charge of our health. Why is it that specialised doctors and multi-national pharma and equipment companies control how we live? Weren’t these medicines and machines produced by the Common knowledge, which cannot be patented to a company or a person? Isn’t all production social? Isn’t the knowledge that we have of the virus itself the result of social co-operation which is now registered only along the lines of value relations but can indeed be truly communal? Why is it that we cannot think of taking charge of our lives when knowledge has truly become global and is indeed a click away, and why is it that who has access to this knowledge is pre-determined and completely out of collective ownership? Why is it that strict and hierarchised division of labor exists and we let the state command the workers what they should do? Even in the midst of an apparent complete lock down, we know that laborers are working across sectors, in the line of possible infection and death, to keep our lights on, to keep our phones ringing, to keep our neighborhoods clean and to keep us alive if we get infected. Why is it that the officers command and the technicians do the job? Can’t the technician, if the division of labor is democratic and functional, take charge of himself or herself? And why is it that one individual because (s)he belongs to a socio-historical category condemned to do the manual work? What use is the university if its role is to only select who will clean the road and who will direct this cleaning? What use is our communism if we instrumentalise Common for the purpose of the state?

And how are we communists if we side with the state to appropriate collective human action so that capitalist recomposition is unhindered? How are we communists if we allow the law making and law preserving violence to take charge of the situation? True that the workers will revolt. We are already revolting, but in what terms will we revolt? Wasn’t our existence before the pandemic violently precarious and uncertain? And isn’t it so that the pandemic has indeed given a fresh breath of air to the establishment to continue their appropriation and exploitation? Wasn’t the world witnessing mass strikes and protests throughout the previous decade?

If we allow capital to take charge now, as history suggests, we might control the virus but not in our terms, and we will be living in a permanent state of emergency, without any facade of order, and our lives will be altered for ever and we will be living through naked monstrosity. We cannot fight capital by capturing state power; it is precisely in the evacuation of power through the force of collective doing that our hope lies. And we know how to do it, we have been doing it. Just that we did not realise it when we were doing it and once the moment of doing passed, it got subsumed into the totality of capitalist abstraction precisely because we failed to be committed to the persistence of the negativity in the concrete situation.

This moment can become a real state of emergency, in our terms, against capital. But it can also be a state of emergency imposed on us from above if forgo the militant commitment to the Commons.

DU Ad-Hoc teacher fights NRC

DU Ad-Hoc teacher: I oppose NRC. I stand for your rights.

An infiltrator: Thanks Professor. I am humbled.

T: I oppose NRC not just for you but for the sake of democracy. I oppose this anti-people government too. Also I am not yet a Professor. I am Assistant Professor, ad-hoc.

I: I thought you were opposing for me. And what is this ad-hoc?

T: It is for you, of course! But your struggle represent the struggle for the future India. India that the constitutional fathers dreamt of. This government is destroying it. And ad-hoc means I am like a contract teacher. But not as bad as those Guest Lecturers. I get salary of an Assistant Professor, but I am neither permanent nor receive any full time benefits. But all that is going to go. They are going to make us also Guest Lecturers. Neo-liberalism.

I: Hmm. Seems like we have something in common. Everyone who supports me in NRC only tell me what they think of NRC. For a change I want to know what is the status of teachers in this country. I need to inform my fellow infiltrators in Bangladesh if it is worth taking the risk to come to India. I haven’t been to school still I am curious.

T: Talking about teachers whole over the country is difficult. I will talk about my case. I studied in DU, did my UG, PG and spend a considerable amount of money to clear NET exam. When doing my PG I licked all the right boots to get a PhD seat in my department and did all the manual work of one favourable faculty. I also performed well as an obedient and harmless person to the powerful people in the college and this faculty helped me get into an ad hoc position in the college. He had friends in that college and pulled some strings to get me the position. In return I helped this faculty organise seminars, co-write articles and books. He got APA with my work and became a Professor now. He sends me to his friends to offer my services to them and they do it among their servile juniors. I was in charge of Yoga club and had to go everyday in the morning to open the sports room to take out yoga mat. Then I did all his student evaluations. But he is nice; I sit in his room and he gives us tea and we are like friends. But last year there was a person from ruling party who was appointed as ad-hoc. I had to be Guest. But this year I am back as Ad-hoc; luckily no one from my community ticks all the right columns like me. But now due to neo-liberalism and senseless Central government, ad-hoc positions are going to get over. Everyone is going to be Guest and they are going to recruit new people as full time Assistant Professors. Doing this ad-hoc work already exhausted 5 years of my PhD and I am nowhere near completion. But that faculty will publish my article in his book and pass my viva. But if I don’t have PhD I won’t be able to apply as Assistant Professor.

I: Oh. That is sad. What do you intend to do now?

T: We are on protest. We won’t correct papers nor will supervise exams. We want this rule to go and we want ad-hocs to be absorbed into service. Don’t bring new people. They will take away our jobs. Change the rules, and why is PhD a requirement to teach anyway? I like teaching, and like Prof Avijit Pathak said a good teacher need not be a good researcher or should have qualifications for the sake of it. And once these positions are open all the low quality teachers, most of them cadre of the present ruling party, from godforsaken villages will occupy these positions. All of them would have done PhD from some universities that no one would have heard and published in fake journals.

I: Emmm. You oppose NRC on what grounds?

T: It is discriminatory. How can a poor provide written records? This is a measure that targets the poor, the minorities and it is a divisive measure. The government wants to divide people and reap the benefit out of this division. It aims to find the Outsider and make a discourse out of this Outsider.

I: Hmm. Can you tell me once more what is your argument against new appointments in DU?

T: We have been teaching in this place for years. We are the rightful owners of new posts. There should be new guidelines which will automatically absorb us as full time or should protect our tenure. We are the insiders, and before outsiders are given posts we should be protected. Outsiders will be political appointments by the ruling regime and they will destroy this great university. They don’t have any quality and have no experience.

I: Dude. This is the same argument that the North Indian worker tells me when I ask them why they are supporting NRC. He is scared that I will take his position – as a worker and as a recognisable human being in these times. You and he, you both have same arguments. Yet you say you oppose NRC.

T: You are missing the point. And how can you compare me with a Bhakt? I am fighting for my right as a citizen of this country. And he is trying to throw you out of India. I am protecting you. I am fighting against the government which is not listening to my demand to throw out the outsiders who are going to snatch a permanent job from me.

I: You said it.

T: What did I say?

I: You oppose NRC to secure your position as a worker in the university. You want to scare the government, and using the popular anti-NRC sentiment you want to push your agenda to stop outsiders in your workplace occupying your job. I don’t need the support of you. You don’t have integrity. You support me to label another person as an infiltrator and then preserve your precarious livelihood. What is your politics? I don’t think you have any politics. You cannot fight NRC by proclaiming that you are a citizen and you have rights. I am an infiltrator precisely because of this discourse. You create belongingness at various levels and hierarchies and then call out the Bhakt as blind. You are blind. Look at what your politics is at your concrete level of operation. It is NRC in action.

Saving the university?

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.

H: Meaning?

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.