JNU students have elected their students’ union for the year 2018-19, the Left unity (AISA-DSF-SFI-AISF) swept all four seats in the central panel, with most of the school councillor seats. In the Left camp while people are celebrating the victory of record margin, the worry part of the story is ABVP still managed to come second on all the posts in the central panel. In other words, the sad part of the story is BAPSA could not make it a fight between the Brahminical forces versus Dalit forces. If we go by the results, it was again Left versus Right. But if one tries to see the results more deeply, she would find that it was actually Anti-Right versus Right. Today, the Left-unity in JNU and their whole agenda has been reduced to nothing but anti-right Left. In fact, the whole idea behind the ‘Unity’ is based on the justification to defeat the Right, the ABVP. It would be better to conclude the victory as ‘Anti-Right Left won in JNUSU’.
However, here, I am more interested in BAPSA, who manages to open its account in the JNUSU Council with the research scholar Sanjay Kumar winning the seat of Councilor in School of Arts and Aesthetics but its total vote share falls down in comparison to last year. With the fall of vote share, people in the Left camp have already started arguing about the ‘impossibilities of BAPSA’s victory in JNUSU’. Far from the reality of these arguments, I think, our efforts should be focused on various ‘possibilities of its victory’. Optimistically, I believe there would be numerous ways to make BAPSA win in JNUSU. Among all I am trying to present one, which is not coming as my suggestion but as a critique of BAPSA itself.
Before I come to the critique, let me remind myself of my own argument from the Round Table India article, “University as a subject to truth process”, where I was arguing that as BAPSA, like other postmodern forces, is a new truth it must lead the visible space of university- JNUSU, to show that the university is not for the role of civil society but for inventing new truth and making impossible possible. When I wrote this article I was an outsider to JNU, and was dreaming of a very ideal model of ‘union’. Now, when I am part of this university, I can see those arguments and ideals of the university are very far from our reality. It is not that those ideals of ‘university as a subject to truth-process’ are not possible, instead there is not at all a desire for that. The sole motive of the university like JNU seems to be to provide a better civil society. That is why the JNUSU elections are not just a part of ‘campus politics as a whole’ but very central to, or determinant of, the whole.
In other words, as JNU politics has been reduced to electoral politics, there is not much space for inventing new truth but contesting for establishing the existing truth. Ranging from the Right to Left to Ambedkarite, all seem to be busy to establish their truth in power, but power of what? Remember, this JNUSU is not a students’ union which is faithful to provide an ideal space in the University to keep inventing new truth but a platform for the job of civil society in particular and political placement in a mainstream political party in general. This narrow vision and practices of campus politics may only strengthen the existing structure of the liberal institution but cannot transgress it. It is not any utopia to transgress it but a compulsion. I will show this compulsion with the example of BAPSA’s failure in the campus politics- electoral politics.
In the article, mentioned above, I have argued that in the post-modern age, in the age of identitarian or communitarian politics, people even in the university campus are not just abstract categories- students, teachers, scholars- but they also exist with their social reality, with concrete identities. Till that time, I was hopeful with these new forces, as they were bringing the sacrosanct and institutional space of university in particular and civil society, in general, under suspicion for being casteist, sexist and racist. Which they do even today. But, the question is how long they will be able to do this if they are also in the race for the same civil society type students’ union? Or, second, if they are here to challenge the system/institution itself, is it possible they will ever get the opportunity to destroy the liberal institution? This is hard to believe.
For example, you might have heard very frequently about a few liberal/progressive people in campus claiming that BAPSA activists do not know how to talk and engage people nicely, they do not have tolerance, they have no patience to listen to criticism. Let me bring one concrete example, recently a group called GAWS (Group Against Wage Slavery) came up with a pamphlet in which there was a charge about Left practicing Manuvaadi politics and about BAPSA practicing reverse-manuvaad. One Left activist reacted by saying ‘this is an idiotic politics’, while one man in BAPSA reacted by asking to prove the claim of ‘reverse-manuvaad’, the charge he was really hurt with. His line of argument was very real and emotional with convincing logic but next day he was reduced to another charge of ‘assaulting the GAWS member’. As a member of the GAWS, I can feel the truth behind the charge of ‘assault’ but no one is interested in the truth especially when, in the post-truth age, it can thicken our preconceived perceptions. I am also not interested in finding out who created and spread the rumors, rather I am trying to expose the whole liberal nature of JNU campus politics where the man who was hurt and lost his tolerance for a few minutes was demonized. I remember here Wendy Brown, “toleration is itself a discourse of power”.
What I am trying to make here is a point that BAPSA and its practices are/will be the victim of this discourse. That is why they not only need to replace the Brahminized power with the Dalit forces, rather they will have to fight against the liberal discourse itself. In other words, they will have to assert their ‘particular’ problems- caste, if assertion is a way to annihilation, at the same time, they will have to fight against the larger monster-capitalism which gives shelter to Savarna-values in particular and the liberal discourse in general. Without destroying the latter, former is not possible to achieve and similarly, the latter cannot be destroyed in our social context without annihilating the former. This complexity of problems is the real obstacle of BAPSA. BAPSA can easily be demonized in the present liberal discourse in campus like JNU.
Recently, in a lecture and discussion on “Periyar’s Dialogues: Annihilating Caste From Within Caste Associations”, the Chair Prof Sukumar Narayana expressed his desire, “as an Ambedkarite, I think there should be only two forces in any campus- one Brahmanical and other, Ambedkarite”. I do not disagree with his desire but I am doubtful about its realization. Because, Brahimanical values are hidden and legitimized by the liberal institutions, which is directly under the guidance of big father- Capitalism. Even as an Ambedkarite, one has compulsion to fight against capital/liberal forces with the Brahmanical forces, otherwise, the sole purpose of annihilating castes will be converted into the ‘Liberal Ambedkarite’, same like ‘Liberal Left’. We should not forget that there is a complexity of Brahmanism and Liberalism, which is our real enemy. We should also not forget that this is the liberalism under which even the Left kept/keeps practicing Brahmanism. I feel the biggest mistake with the Left was that it took its enemy, Capitalism, in isolation. It could not understand the complexity of Brahmanism-liberalism-capitalism. However, I must take a break here as I can see a completely different type of Left on the ground which was even abandoned by the Liberal-Left. Remember, most of the sacrifices even in the radical left movement were from the Dalit/Adivasi people.
Therefore, I believe this is the time to reclaim our people and their sacrifices. This is the time to challenge the appropriation of our people by the Liberal-Brahiminical Left. BAPSA must assert themselves more left than the others. BAPSA must open their fight against the complexity of Brahmanism-Liberalism-Capitalism as a whole. It is true that BAPSA is talking about the local concrete problem, not an abstract dream, but it should not forget that every local problem is redirected and defended by the larger monster-capitalism. Again, this is the time for BAPSA to claim Marxism more than the Liberal-Left. We need to free ‘Marxism’ from the abstract-class-arrogant Marxists to concretize it more with the help of Ambedkar’s understanding of Caste based economy. We should not forget that it is ‘labor and labor power’ that is like a fire in Marxism. Fire is the force which has shaped and transformed the whole material world. According to Marxism, labor is a form of fire in capitalism. Remember, Marx’s famous dictum “All that is solid melts into the air”. This is the time to ask about the forces which have the melting capabilities. Don’t you think, those melting forces are coming from the concrete caste-based-divided labor? If yes, then, how a middle class people can be more Marxist than the ‘fire’? Time to remind them, Marxism is not about just theory but about praxis. All those Dalit/Adivasi/Bahujan are Marxists by praxis. This is the time to question about the ‘subjectivity of labor’ which has been hijacked by the so called theoretical-intellectual-vanguard Marxist (vanguard is understood in a reduced sense here).
Wait, by all these, I am not trying to say BAPSA people have not understood Marxism. No, not at all about same theory-arrogant Marxism. I have seen BAPSA presidential candidate Praveen claiming that they are more Marxist than others as they belong to the labor/oppressed class people. True. But, at the same time, this is not visible in BAPSA. The way I have seen this time in JNUSU, I was finding that an association which claims to be representing real concrete ‘red’ (labor, Dalit, oppressed) is against the ‘red’ itself. For example, the slogan used by BAPSA, “Laal-Bhagwa ek hai”/ “Left-Right ek hai”. As far as its concrete value attached with the symbol of left and red, it is not possible. Where left/red is a revolutionary voice/blood of oppressed, what can be called inexistent ‘left out’ people. Right/Bhagwa is a reactionary sound/pride of established, privileged people. Both can never be same. However, one can say that BAPSA is never against real ‘red’ but only the electionary left. But, I see that this is where you lost. You lost in making it visible that you are more left than others. You left the ‘quality of Left’ in the pocket of the Beef-eating Brahmins. Can you bring it back?
We should not forget that the ‘blue’ is a symbol of “the blue sky above represents that everything below it on the earth is equal”, which can be achieved by the struggle of ‘red’ (symbolizes the blood of oppressed). Can Ambedkarite BAPSA realize its Marxist potential and make it visible? If yes, I see there is a hidden potential of BAPSA leading JNUSU in particular and Ambedkarites representing revolutionary Left movement in general. This is not to say that let the Left appropriate the Ambekarite movement, rather its time for Ambedkarites to realize the hidden true Marxist potential and march towards the proletariat revolution.
Vishal Verma is an MPhil student at Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory, JNU and is interested in Critical theory, Students Politics and Social Movements.