(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 28 , 2008
On To 13th All India Conference Of SFI
K K Ragesh
THE 13th all India conference of the Student’s Federation of India is going to be held in West Bengal during September 27-30, 2008 at Comrade Ajay-Debabrata Manch (EZCC Auditorium) in Martyr Khudiram Bose Nagar (Salt Lake, North 24 Parganas).
The central slogan of the conference is “Equitable Access to Quality Education”. A total of 750 elected delegates and observers representing the organisation membership of more than 43 lakh will take part in the four days long conference. A mass rally will be held on the inaugural day of the conference, September 27, in which more than one lakh students are expected to participate.
The conference will discuss the challenges prevailing in the education sector today under the changed international and national situation, as also the policies of the Congress led-UPA government. The promises made by the UPA government in the NCMP, their partial fulfillment and failure to keep its commitment to the students of our country will be critically discussed. Future tasks will be chalked out in the conference on the basis of our political organisational review.
For the SFI, a conference is a demonstration of the overall democratic functioning of the organisation. It is not intended merely to elect a new leadership but to review collectively the political situation, the policy orientation of the present regime, the activities undertaken etc and delineating the future tasks.
RESISTING EFFORTS FOR DE-POLITICISATION
In the neo-liberal era, the student community faces numerous challenges. The illusions of globalisation, consumerism and careerism fascinate youth and students. Deliberate efforts aimed at restraining the present-day student in mere 'career dreams' and ‘campus placements’ are common. The fact that neo-liberal policies bring about growing unemployment and result in the menace of jobloss growth is sought to be concealed through such efforts. The sinister design of the capitalist forces in these liberalised times is to mould a generation which lives in a world of career fantasies devoid of any social commitment. Imperialist and capitalist forces convert even ‘services’ into a 'sector' and bring them into the orbit of market. Once in the market, they want it to be open to the free flow of capital and want it to be under their control and serve their interests. De-politicisation of social system and apolitical campuses ensure the success of these heinous gameplans of the imperialist forces. Indeed no space will be available for any kind of resistance in the campuses that are lured into this apolitical abyss. Even imperialist aggression - economic and military - would be accepted and made part of general sensitivity. It is in this background that the ideological struggle against all such apolitical trends that are generated and reinforced by the globalisation, assumes even more significance.
Promoters of neo-liberal policies always advocate for de-politicisation of the civil society and subsequently campaign against all sorts of political activities in campuses. Wherever progressive politics find its space, one can observe apolitical rhetoric being propagated in many ways. “The universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country…..And the republic is in danger. Yes! danger from within and without. We need law and order! Without law and order our nation cannot survive.” The above mentioned quote might be mistaken to be taken from an editorial of a rightwing media against student politics. In fact these were the words of Adolf Hitler quoted from his speech during the election campaign in 1932. To attack the Left and progressive forces, the rightwing media always produces such Hitlerian fretfulness. While ignoring the genuine demands of any agitations, the apolitical promoters always paint any student activity as ‘student’s rebellion’ and ‘rioting’.
Such apolitical rhetoric currently echoes even in our courts. The Constitution guarantees all citizens with the following fundamental rights under Article 19(1) (a) to freedom of speech and expression; (b) to assemble peacefully and without arms; (c) to form associations or unions. The Constitution itself clarifies that ‘the State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part (Part III of the Constitution which explains the fundamental rights) and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void’. The court, which is supposed to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens from any kind of infringement through State intervention, surprisingly invents a new interpretation that forbidding such rights to students could be considered as a ‘reasonable restriction’! Even though the Supreme Court in its interim order had directed to conduct students’ union elections, till date the apex court’s direction remains unimplemented in most of the states. The courts antipathy towards student politics is time and again seen in many comments it made during this period. The views of the Kerala High Court to ‘prohibit political activities in campuses’ and ‘forbid students from organising or attending meetings other than the official ones’ are inconceivable in a democratic system. It is ironical that the democratic rights of students are being questioned by the private college principals' organisation. The final judgment on the democratic rights of students, of course, is still awaited.
The anti-political attitude of the judiciary during these neo-liberal times has to be read in consonance with its judgements related to private education institutions. The judiciary while conferring judicial stamp on the commercial interests of private institutes did not bother about the ruthless denial of education to deprived students. The court failed to provide any relevance to the concept of equality and social justice in its neo-liberal judicial interpretation. The courts, while serving the interests of the capitalist forces, are actively helping in the restriction of education to a privileged few. It is not accidental that the courts clip even the limited democratic rights. It is designed to obliterate all sorts of resistance against the capitalist interests. The SFI programme correctly points outs “Every demand for education, employment opportunities, and the right to work, and every slogan in defense of civil rights such as right to speech, assembly, and association, and every protest against any injustice or oppression are invariably connected with the policies of the State and thus assume a political character. In the face of this reality, it is hypocritical to subscribe to bankrupt slogans such as ‘students should abstain from politics’ and ‘education should be apolitical’. The Student's Federation of India is of the considered view that such deceptive slogans have the political motivation of perpetuating political ignorance among the student community to conceal from them the harsh implications of the anti-people policies of the ruling classes and thus help the conservative, exploitative social order to stay”.
The 12th all India conference of SFI in 2005 had correctly noted that the current political situation offered a favourable situation for the growth of the progressive and democratic forces in the country. This assessment was based on the defeat of the BJP in the 2004 general elections. The vote against BJP was not only a vote against their communal policies but also against their pro-imperialist tilt as reflected in their foreign and economic policy. The emphatic rejection of their slogan ‘Shining India’ proved this. There is a growing realisation among the people about the illusions of globalisation and a perception of its ill-effects. Amidst farmers’ suicides, downsizing of the public sector, back-breaking price rise, jobloss growth and commercialisation of education, the smokescreens of much-hyped growth rate and 'enterprising India' are lifting. An intensified resistance is imminent and the significant growth that the Left and progressive forces, including the SFI, made during this period is undoubtedly a sign of such advancement.
In the period after the 12th all India conference, SFI organised numerous agitations and campaigns against commercialisation of education, against the government’s move to allow private and foreign universities, demanding social control over private self-financing institutions, ensuring OBC reservations in education and also for implementing right to education. The two all India jathas organised by SFI, which included collection of one crore signatures and holding of one hundred rallies throughout the country, got an immense response from the academic community in general and the student community in particular. The all India jathas, organised for the first time in the history of the student movement in our country, became a landmark accomplishment that could set the direction for future struggles. Students received the jathas at various centres in large numbers. Various cultural and traditional art forms were used to welcome the jathas. In many states where the SFI has a meager presence, well organised and massive student rallies and receptions for the jathas showed the increased support for the progressive student organisation in these areas.
In this period, two parliament marches were organised by SFI. One was held prior to the budget session demanding an increase in the budgetary allocations as promised in the NCMP. And the second one was a spontaneous response against the India-US nuclear deal on the day the government was seeking the trust vote in parliament. Numerous agitations were also organised throughout the country on local issues. As a result of such consistent struggles, SFI has emerged as a synonym of persistent struggles. And it is reflected in the overall growth of the organisation during this period. During the time of formation SFI's membership was 1,26,731 and after 25 years it had increased in to 24,90,847. The new millennium and the sustained struggles against globalisation and communalism got reflected in campuses also and during the last eight years the membership has increased from 24,90,847 to the present figure of 43,27,999. During the last three years alone the membership has increased from 34,76,666 (2004-05) to 43,27,999 (2007-08) and hence registered an increase of 8,48,616 which is the highest ever increase between two conferences.
History is witness to the momentous movements organised by the students across the world. The students stood firmly in struggles for social transformation. Lenin himself acknowledged, in his various writings, the role played by students in the great Soviet revolution. Students played an active role in the socialist revolutions in many countries including China, Vietnam and Cuba. Universities across the world reverberated with anti-imperialist struggles during late 1960s. Noteworthy were the agitations in the French universities against the US aggression on Vietnam. Indian students also hold the legacy of the anti-imperialist movement. They fought zealously against British imperialism during the liberation movement and made immense sacrifices. The calls of civil disobedience movement, Swadesi movement inspired campuses. Tens of thousands of students confronted the British empire, both in the campuses and on the streets. They protested against the partition of Bengal, against the Carlyle circular that directed the schools to expel students participating in political activity, against the Simon Commission etc. Heroic martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Hemu Kalani, Udham Singh, Madan Lal Dhingra, Lal Padam Dhar and Khudhiram Bose all had leaped into the independence movement in their student days. It is the SFI that inherited the legacy of the heroic struggles and carries forward such heritage even today. The rightist student organisations that advocate imperialist dictates in no way can claim such a tradition.
Similar to the bygone days of anti-colonial struggles, SFI today has an immense responsibility to rally students against neo-colonialism and imperialist aggression. US imperialism is working on twin tracks to ensure its hegemony. While it is using its military to blatantly attack and occupy sovereign countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, in India and other countries it is using its finance capital to ensure its economic hegemony. The UPA government is shamelessly succumbing to such US pressure time and again. Campuses have to be awakened with anti-imperialist sentiments and it is indeed true that when imperialism is enemy it is a crime not to resist.
During this period the student movement had effectively dealt with the numerous challenges posed by the neo-liberal policies. It is the SFI’s intervention that empowered campuses wherever the organisation exists, to identify such ruling class politics behind the apolitical masquerade. It cannot be ignored that the campuses earlier mired in consumerist fantasies were being directed towards resistance and struggles through our relentless intervention. The uncompromising struggles once again proved that even today students are prepared to make immense sacrifices and face any kind of tortures and torments for a noble cause.
In the ‘German Ideology’, Marx and Engels wrote that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance.”
Marx in the above mentioned quote articulates how the ruling class ideas dominate in a society. Even in the absence of a ruling class organisation and its campaign, the ruling class ideas will exist and dominate as a ‘common sense’ and hence it is very important to generate alternative sense or ‘good sense’ to counter such ruling class ideas. And it assumes even more importance to affirm obstinately in the battle of ideas today at a time when neo-liberal perceptions seek to dominate the society. Irrefutably the 13th all India conference will undertake such a task by chalking out further uncompromising struggles in resisting the ideological and political assault of neo-liberal policies.