Thursday, 31 January 2013

DSF – A Saga of Hollow Rhetoric and Blatant Betrayals

“SFI-JNU Unit will carry forward the legacy of Study and Struggle and continue to function in the name of SFI-JNU and retain its adherence to the SFI Programme and Constitution.”
-       “SFI-JNU” Pamphlet dated 10 July 2012

“SFI-JNU will continue to abide by the SFI All-India Programme and Constitution”
-       “Resolution Passed in SFI-JNU Unit GBM Held on 13 July 2012” (“SFI-JNU” Release dated 14 July 2012)

“SFI-JNU Unit will attempt to initiate political dialogue with all CEC members, State Committees and primary units of the SFI on the basis of these questions. Feedback received from SFI units across the country will be collated and presented before the Conference of the SFI-JNU Unit, which will be held before the end of the monsoon semester, i.e. by November 2012. All members of the SFI-JNU Unit will have an opportunity to voice their opinions in the Conference. After due deliberations, the Conference of the SFI-JNU Unit will take a final decision on the question of larger organizational affiliation.”
-       “Resolution passed in SFI JNU unit EC on 4 August 2012” (“SFI-JNU” Release dated 5 August 2012)

What happened to these promises that the “SFI-JNU” leadership gave to its members?

The formation of the outfit “DSF” puts an end to the six-month long dilly-dallying on the part of “SFI-JNU” leaders. It is the culmination of the drama played out by these leaders in their betrayal of the members of “SFI-JNU”. As we have pointed out earlier as well, the first part of the tactics of the leaders of “SFI-JNU” has been to free ride on the political legacy of the SFI in this campus by making use of its name and by claming to adhere to the programme and constitution of SFI. True to “SFI-JNU”‘s nature as a bourgeois factional outfit, the other part of this survival tactics was to remain subservient to the ruling classes (and their lackey on campus, the JNU administration) by furthering the ruling class agenda of attacking the organised Left. Questions from many students regarding the political identity of “SFI-JNU” were addressed by its leaders by claiming that the decision regarding organisational affiliation would be taken at a later date suited to their opportunist politics. This tactic aimed at confusing genuine SFI sympathisers on the one hand, while on the other hand cornering a share of the anti-SFI, anti-organised Left polarisation (which includes the right-wing) in the campus, of which the biggest beneficiary so far was the AISA. During the membership campaign of “SFI-JNU” in the last semester, they shamelessly handed out membership slips with “Students’ Federation of India – Jawaharlal Nehru University unit” written on them, while the fact was that the SFI’s unit in JNU was yet to be formed at that time after the disruption that occurred in July 2012. Clearly this was done to take along a few students who were misinformed about the organisational affiliation of the outfit. Many such members were told that they would be rejoining SFI after the elections. The leaders of the outfit even tried to mislead the students by claiming that the struggle was between the “real” SFI and the “official” SFI.

All through these times, the SFI took a principled position that the leaders who had left SFI had pursued a wrong and divisive line at the SFI GBM on 5 July 2012, and that the Unit Organising Committee (UOC) would work to bring about a political unity within the organisation.

The Formation of DSF

The tactics of “SFI-JNU” – that of free riding on SFI’s political legacy while pursuing the ruling class agenda of attacking the organised Left (which was AISA’s forte all these years) – continued in the JNUSU elections as well. Following their partial success in the JNUSU elections, the disruptors who led “SFI-JNU” took their deviations to a logical conclusion and went on to form the new bourgeois outfit, named “Democratic Students’ Federation”. The genuine SFI sympathisers who were still with “SFI-JNU” and who did not find any political or programmatic reason to be out of SFI were taken for a ride, and were voted out “democratically” while forming the outfit and naming it “DSF”. This outfit is, of course, a puppet in the hands of a handful of bourgeois disruptors who had undergone right-wing deviations (exemplified by the erroneous positions they adopted when a Nestle outlet came up in JNU, and when the Singur-Nandigram debates were on in the campus), and who rediscovered the virtues of petty-bourgeois radicalism as an opportunist tactic to win elections.

The “bosses” of “SFI-JNU”, of course, have every right to decide their future course of action. But they have a political and moral responsibility to ask their representatives to resign from the posts they won in the JNUSU elections by deceiving the JNU students while claiming to adhere to the programme and constitution of SFI. SFI appeals to the progressive, democratic sections of the student community to see through the latest avatar of ruling class politics that is DSF, and vows to carry forward the political fight to isolate the disruptors.

Revive the Fighting Traditions of the Students’ Movement

In terms of the balance of political forces in the JNU campus, the developments since 2007 have meant a weakening of the JNU students’ movement vis-à-vis the administration, as demonstrated by the sheer volume of anti-student moves on its part during this period. An important component of the fight to change this correlation of forces is the fight against the restrictions imposed on our elections as per the Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations (LCR). The organisations that lead the current JNUSU had contested the elections promising to fight against LCR, but no steps have been taken in this regard so far. Unsurprisingly, DSF, the latest avatar of ruling class politics in JNU, has come up with a formulation with a dangerous resonance to that of the Lyngdoh formulations. While Lyngdoh wanted to “disassociate student elections and student representation from political parties”, DSF has made the ridiculous claim that they have “identified the shackles of political parties as the biggest reason for the stagnation in the student movement in India” (DSF release dated 26.01.2013), thus advancing the ruling class-Lyngdoh agenda of the depoliticisation of campuses. Reviving the fighting traditions of the students’ movement, in other words, calls for the rejection of the bourgeois politics peddled by the likes of DSF.

No More Delay! Provide Alternative Accommodation to All Students without Hostels NOW!!

Eleven days after the protest demo called by “Students without Hostels”, the JNUSU held another protest demonstration at the Dean of Students’ Office on Tuesday, 29 January. The Dean had agreed on 18 January that he would discuss with the Vice-Chancellor the feasibility of using the Old South Asian University (SAU) building to provide accommodation to students who haven’t got hostels till now, and that he would inform student representatives about the status of the initiative by 23 February. But the deadline given by him went by, with the Dean getting away saying that he had not talked to the VC at all. After Tuesday’s protest, the Dean extended the waiting game, and said that by the 31 January evening, he along with the Rector and the VC would survey the Old SAU building and come up with a conclusive reply. But true to the callous attitude of the administration, this promise has been broken as well. The student community needs to be vigilant against the lies and false promises meted out to them and intensify their struggle. The extent of anger of the students is so much that within 24 hours around a thousand signatures were collected on a mass petition to the VC demanding immediate alternative accommodation along with mess and transport facilities. The battle has begun, and students are ready for a spirited fight to ensure that the urgent demand of alternative accommodation is met, and to force the administration to begin the construction of new hostels immediately.

What is the Status of the MCM Report?

Based on the huge increase in living expenses during the past six years since the last increase in MCM scholarships, the demand of the student community during the agitation in the last semester was that the MCM amount should be doubled, from Rs.1500 to Rs.3000. The final agreement of the JNUSU with the administration said, “The University will take up this matter with the UGC as well as other agencies to generate funds for increasing the MCM fellowship amount up to Rs.3000/- from the next semester. The University will convey the status report regarding this matter in January 2013.” But no concrete steps are known to have been taken by the administration even as the student community has been bearing the burden of a 33% increase in mess bills, as a result of the increased prices of essential commodities, increase in LPG prices and the cap in the number of subsidised LPG cylinders.

Parroting the administration’s hollow commitments regarding these and other demands including restoring the progressive character of the admission policy, the JNUSU had talked about its agreement with the administration in terms of “a step forward”, “substantial advance” and so on. It had promised that it would wage an agitation to ensure that the administration keeps its word regarding students’ demands (JNUSU pamphlet dated 3 November 2012), yet it has not even convened a JNUSU Council meeting in this semester.

Kopal, Secretary, SFI JNU Unit                                                                                       
Manu M R, President, SFI JNU Unit

Monday, 14 January 2013

Reject The Efforts to Make JNU a Conduit for Ruling Class Politics!!

A public meeting, with the topic “India Today: Towards a People’s Democratic Alternative”, seemingly oriented towards the progressive objective of forging a unity of the left-democratic forces in our country, was organised by “SFI-JNU” yesterday at Godavari Dhaba. But even if we keep the absence of the largest communist parties in India (the CPI and the CPI(M)) in the programme aside, a number of factors cast doubts on the motives of the organisers of this initiative.

Hypocrisy on the Issue of Gender Justice: The Curious Case of Parshuram Chavan

The list of speakers in the public meeting in itself exposed the hypocrisy of “SFI-JNU”’s tall-talk on their commitment towards gender justice. When it came to the formation of the “India Today” group, they had no qualms in inviting a person with such dubious credentials as Parshuram Chavan, notorious for sexual harassment and extortion of money from Adivasis. Chavan had been expelled from the CPI(M) by the CPI(M)’s Maharashtra State Committee in 2007 after his nefarious activities came to light. Among the most important reasons for his expulsion from the CPI(M) were the several cases of sexual harassment in which Chavan stood indicted. There was an instance of Chavan having sexually harassed an Adivasi Panchayat Samiti member who was an AIDWA activist. Besides, Chavan and his coterie used to help the landlords against the Adivasis in a surreptitious manner. Some Adivasis were told by them to take some money and give up the land which was in their occupation for generations to the landlord. In return for this deceit, a large amount of money was given by the landlord to Parshuram Chavan, Suhas Samant and Ramji Vartha, who were all expelled from the CPI(M). After their expulsion, Chavan and his coterie formed the Godavari Parulekar Marxvadi Vichar Manch, named after the legendary leader of the CPI(M) who led the historic Warli Adivasi struggle in Thane district. By the shameful act of inviting the representative of the outfit led by Parshuram Chavan (which is an insult to the names and prestige of both Comrade Godavari Parulekar and Karl Marx), “SFI-JNU” has, once again, sought to discredit the name of both SFI and JNU.

“Sorry, Only “SFI-JNU” Posters Allowed!!”

Even before the public meeting began, a brazen violation of democratic norms was indulged in by “SFI-JNU” activists, who lose no opportunity to wax eloquent about democracy and the need to allow space for dissenting opinions. When a few “inconvenient” questions were raised by a group of students yesterday in a release, “SFI-JNU” activists, who were on a mess campaign led by the JNUSU President himself, had the audacity to tear the poster away. This happened in full public view in front of the Godavari Hostel. Such vandalism and undemocratic behaviour which run counter to the JNU ethos of democratic debates can never be tolerated, and it is deplorable that the JNUSU President himself was found complicit in this act by his inaction while this happened.

“No Questions Please”: The “SFI-JNU” Model of Championing People’s Democracy

“SFI-JNU” lived up to its undemocratic record in the conduct of the public meeting as well. After all the sermons on People’s Democracy and bashing of the left movement on the stage, the “India Today” organisers prevented students from raising questions. When students who were part of the audience approached “SFI-JNU” leaders with questions, they gave ridiculous justifications like “this is an open (?) public meeting; hence we have no question and answer session” and “public meetings in Godavari Dhaba don’t have question and answer sessions”!!

Once Again on the Origins of the bourgeois factional outfit “SFI-JNU”

The principal reason for the birth of “SFI-JNU” was the lack of confidence of a section of the erstwhile SFI leadership under the stewardship of Prasenjit Bose (who had enjoyed a continuing association with the unit), to take on politically the ruling class politics pursued by the AISA, which was to relentlessly attack the organised Left. The same lacunae manifested themselves in their analysis of the post-2007 situation in the campus, according to which SFI was “vulnerable to attacks of ‘double-speak’ by the ultra Left” (“SFI-JNU” pamphlet, 07.07.2012). The erstwhile leadership even attributed the electoral defeat of the SFI since 2007 in the campus to the SFI’s organic link with the larger left and democratic movement in the country. The adoption of the resolution at a thinly attended GBM on 5 July 2012 insulating the organisation from the left-democratic movement was a logical outcome of this flawed analysis. The larger political agenda behind the GBM, in which a handful of the erstwhile leadership of SFI pushed for a divisive line over a non-issue, was to line up behind P. Bose, who had chosen to resign over the same issue. The haste in which the erstwhile leaders adopted their chosen course of action raised serious questions, as the issue in question was not one that could arouse the masses into action and contribute to a revival of class politics in the country.

Such a strategy was borne out of the desperation of the very same handful leaders of “SFI-JNU” to wash their hands off their central role in the unacceptable organisational tendencies that had prevailed since 2004, and their inability and unwillingness to “fix proper responsibility” and to “conduct rectification thereon” on various matters which shook the campus, such as the Nestle issue and the response to the Singur-Nandigram debates. Such right-wing deviations of a section of the leadership helped to consolidate the “fashionable”, so-called “ultra-Left” within the campus.

Why continue with the name “SFI-JNU”?

With the intervention of the higher leadership of SFI putting an end to the whole disorder, a handful among the erstwhile leadership floated the organisation named “SFI-JNU”. The tactics of this outfit to ensure their survival in the campus has been twofold - free riding and building on the political legacy of the SFI in the campus, and remaining subservient to the ruling class agenda of attacking the organised Left. Questions from many students regarding the political identity of “”SFI-JNU” were addressed by its leaders by claiming that the decision regarding organisational affiliation would be taken at a later date suited to their opportunist politics. This tactic of confusing genuine SFI sympathisers combined with efforts to corner a share in the pie of the anti-SFI, anti-organised Left polarisation (which includes the right-wing) of which the AISA has been a virtual beneficiary all through came to the fore on several occasions. This was clearly visible even in their membership campaign in the last semester (where they deviously gave out memberships to the non-existent “Students’ Federation of India – Jawaharlal Nehru University unit” so as to take along a few who were misinformed about the organisational affiliation of the outfit) as well as in their mobilisations since 10 July, which had an evidently anti-organised Left content.

While from the very day of its inception this outfit had consistently demonstrated how unworthy it is to call itself “SFI-JNU”, they still continue to use the name, even after six months of its disavowal of its organic link with the left and democratic movement in India.  As if that is not enough, the “SFI-JNU” still calls itself the “SFI JNU Unit”. One would be curious to ask, a Unit of what?

In Dubious Company: “SFI-JNU”’s Myopic Vision of Left Unity

We have already mentioned the dubious character of Parshuram Chavan’s outfit which has become an essential element in “SFI-JNU”’s platform of “left unity”. Here it would be pertinent to examine some of the other components of this platform as well. For example, what is common between a Prasenjit Bose and a Mangat Ram Pasla (the leader of CPM Punjab)? Mangat Ram Pasla swears by the 1964 Programme of the CPI(M) and rejects the Updated Programme of 2000, while P. Bose rejects them both. Mangat Ram Pasla swears by democratic centralism as upheld by the “Tasks on Organisation” document adopted by the Central Committee of the CPI(M) in 1967, whereas P. Bose rejects it outright; Pasla’s CPM Punjab refuses to draw any lessons from the experience of 20th century socialism as is evident from its Programme, while Mr. Bose has found his ideal prescription for 21st century socialism in the social democratic experiments in Greece and Latin America. In short, if there is any glue that binds together the myriad characters who claimed to seek a “People’s Democratic Alternative” yesterday, it is a shared and pathological hatred towards the largest contingent of the left and democratic movement in this country.

The prescriptions of “SFI-JNU” on democratic centralism and '21st century socialism' have established clearly that it wants to pursue a revisionist/social democratic programme, shedding all Leninist principles. The latest overture of the same outfit to build a Left co-ordination at the national level with outfits whose dubious character is evident to the people of this country is nothing but an espousal and practice of ruling class politics. SFI believes that the progressive tradition of the JNU student movement, which was built up with immense sacrifices in the face of right-wing attacks during the Emergency, the attacks of the Sangh Parivar and the latest onslaught from the state in the name of Lyngdoh Committee Recommendations, should not be allowed to dissipate at the hands of the ruling classes, their latest tool being “SFI-JNU”.

Kopal, Secretary
Manu M R, President