THE Students Federation of India (SFI) organised a successful three days long school for its activists in the Hindi speaking states was successfully in Chandigarh from June 3 to 5. A total of 91 activists from 10 states participated in the school which was first such exercise after a similar school in Delhi in 2007. Spread over five sessions, the school covered Marxist philosophy, current political situation, identity politics, organisation, and educational policy framework.
WHY A SCHOOL FOR HINDI STATES
The Hindi speaking states represent a majority of Indian population and the inability to break the organisational stagnation in this huge region has also translated into the inability to build a substantial students’ organisation at the all India level. Further, the entire region has certain definite socio-political similarities, apart from the linguistic similarity.
Firstly, all these states have historically shown poor educational standards, and particularly in the last 20 years the condition of whatever little public institutions were there has worsened, with neo-liberal dictum of ‘cuts’ directly translating into insufficient infrastructure in higher education as well as school education. Moreover, the number of private institutions in the region has meteorically increased and most of them are found flouting the norms, with active involvement of politicians of the ruling class parties in the management of these institutions.
Secondly, the rise of identity politics is clearly visible in the university campuses and colleges of the region with an ever increasing number of caste and region based groups. This has meant that while the assault on education is growing unabatedly in absence of any effective resistance, the possibilities of any wide unity are also being thwarted by identity based groups. It becomes necessary, therefore, that the activists are equipped with the politics and ideology with which they cannot only face this reality, but also gear the organisation towards expansion. It was with this understanding that a separate school for the Hindi linguistic states was organised.
MARXIST PHILOSOPHY: SCIENTIFIC METHOD
Dr Omkar Shad, a former leader of SFI in Himachal Pradesh and currently the state secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, took the first session on ‘Marxist philosophy’ and brilliantly showed how Marxist philosophy is a scientific method of seeing the world, which goes a step further and arms us to change the world as well. Some points in his presentation were particularly insightful. He outlined how the day-to-day issues of the students in their campuses might lead to spontaneous protest actions, but these have to be channelised and streamlined; for which there is a definite scientific method: “moving from quantitative change to qualitative change,” “keeping in mind the dialectics of this change,” so on and so forth. While shaping the spontaneity is one task of the organisation, the major task is to formulate “concrete slogans according to concrete conditions” and anticipate the response of the student community. The facts that some states have tremendous organisational strength means that the general understanding of the organisation is correct and that the organisation in Hindi states has failed to appropriately formulate correct slogans. Moulding of the subjectivities of the student community according to the objective reality is an essential part of the scientific method of organisation building.
PUTTING POLITICS IN COMMAND
Former all-India general secretary of the SFI, Nilotpal Basu, took the session on the current political situation. He pointed how the attempts of keeping students away from politics are not new and have always been part of the ruling class’ arsenal, but that they have intensified the drive considerably particularly in the last two decades. The student movement has to fight this depoliticisation and put politics right in front of its agenda. This doesn’t makes it ‘political’ in the sense of being merely a front of any political party; rather it stresses the fact that even the simplest of the demands of the student community can’t be achieved without being ‘political.’ The neo-liberal governance model is creating havoc in the field of education and the grievances of the student community are increasing day by day. Apart from the two main national parties of the ruling classes, almost all the regional parties are also in the grip of the neo-liberal ideology today. The student movement has to take up these issues more intensely, gradually build up the movement and move ahead.
CHALLENGE OF THE IDENTITY POLITICS
Suneet Chopra, former member of the SFI central secretariat and currently a joint secretary of the All India Agricultural Workers Union, took the session on identity politics and outlined how identity politics is a strategy of the ruling classed to disrupt the unity of the toilers and prolong its own rule. He underlined this process by citing examples from the pattern of land holdings to the mythologies. But the kind of identity politics that we are seeing currently is specific to international finance capital driven neo-liberalism where the dispossession and misery are at an historical high. Generations of ‘Eklavyas’ have been denied their right to education, with their ‘thumbs cut off’ by the Dhronacharyas of our today’s society. It is the prime duty of an organisation like the SFI to take up the dalit issues, as only by doing so would we be able to isolate the politics of identity groups. Neo-liberalism provides the material basis for the identity politics, as it elevates alienation to such high levels that individuals are reduced to separate compartments. Left politics, unlike this, has to counter the alienation and build the broadest possible unity. “Reaching out to those who are away from us” and “organising the unorganised” is the only way of countering the identity politics.
ON ORGANISATION & EDUCATION POLICIES
Vikram Singh, all-India joint secretary of the SFI, took the session on organisation and pinpointed the wrong tendencies which have hampered the organisation’s growth. He then put forth the correct organisational practices which can help us in expanding. Starting from the mass membership to building movements to consolidating the organisation to building activists and cadres --- the process of organisation building is an art as well as a science. In order to break the deadlock in the Hindi speaking region we will have to rectify the wrong trends in the organisation.
Vijendra Sharma took the fifth and last session on the education policies and demonstrated how the successive governments have enacted legislations to push forth the neo-liberal agenda in the field of education. More specifically, in the period of the twelfth five year plan, they have further intensified these moves and we are witnessing an elaborate legislative framework which would restructure education according to the requirement of the finance capital. Authoritarian regimes and undemocratic university administrations are part and parcel of this whole design and the ongoing process in Delhi University reflects the larger danger lurking ahead. These designs can be countered and effectively fought only by building greater unity among students, teachers, parents and employees.
Out of a total of 91 delegates, nine were girls. 20 delegates were less than 20 years of age, 48 were between 20 and 25, 19 were between 25 and 30, three between 30 and 35 and one over 35 years of age. Surya Prakash, 16, of Uttar Pradesh was the youngest delegate while Hargobind singh, 43, was the oldest delegate. Six delegates work at the unit level, 37 in the district committees, 32 in the state committees and 18 at the CEC level. Kapil Bhardwaj of Himachal Pradesh has been jailed maximum (27 times) and has been victimised on several occasions for participation in movements. A majority of the delegates want to work in the democratic movement in future, and also felt that such schools should be organised every year.