This message is being addressed to you at a time when we have reached a point of no return. With the West Bengal Universities And Colleges (Administration And Regulation) Act 2017, the State Government has rendered our student unions illegal. History teaches us that tomorrow they will also come after our freedom to protest against it, till one by one, every voice of dissent has been stifled and stamped out. This is the natural flow of fascism. The State seeks to depoliticise us and that is precisely why this is not an apolitical issue. The State wants to dissolve the diversity of our resistance into homogenised, apolitical student councils because it is easier to control and dominate. The State has declared political war on us. We will have to fight, comrades, to defend our right to be political, to be politically visible.
They are afraid, that is for sure. They are afraid of our slogans, our ideologies, our flags. They keep shaming us for our politics. They keep shaming us for our feminisms. They keep shaming us for our resistance and our solidarity with people’s movements across the country and the world.
Fascism cannot be fought with apolitical, non-partisan movements; non-partisanship is what they use to keep the masses opiated. Our fight for the right to be political is synonymous with our fight for the decriminalisation of student union bodies: otherwise why resist the apolitical councils?
Recently, the Mamata Banerjee Government came up with a charter which demanded that Adivasi students sign a written declaration stating that they will not participate in any movement against the state. This was the starting point of the curbing of democratic freedom within academic institutions which culminated in the eventual criminalisation of students’ unions altogether inside colleges and universities.
It is evident that the State is afraid of our political consciousness. The State wishes to erase the very idea of unions from the people’s memory, like Stalin erasing off photographs of Kamenov and Trotsky. Why? Because the existence of students and workers unity is a corrupt state’s nightmare.
Let us return, Comrades, to the most crucial question ever raised by the watershed students’ movements of India in the 1970s: “Freedom for Whom”? Today we must ask ourselves, “Unions for Whom?”. Since students are the labour force in waiting, to deprive them of the power to organize on a partisan basis is essentially to deprive the future working class the means to learn how to organize. If the students are non-partisan, apolitical beings then who will the unions be for? A union is political because its workers are political. A union is partisan because its workers have faith in the ideology of their union.
We must recognize that the claim for a student’s union is a leftist demand. The first student’s union was established in India by AISF (All India Student’s Federation). Identifying with socialist and communist ideologies, the students of India participated in the people’s movements: they participated in the Quit India Movement, Non-cooperation movement, Swadeshi movement, made and carried bombs and artillery, spoke out against the Black Act, fought the British, built resistance during the Emergency, spearheaded the Dalit movements, gave the feminist movement of India its name. They were the ones to take a jab at the British when they walked past them in a bazaar, they were the ones criticising the bourgeois Babu culture in scathing satires, they were the ones writing poems that would lead to imprisonment, they were the ones raising the consciousness of the people in the streets with their politically charged slogans and songs.
It was not until 1936 that the RSS started its students wing, The Hindu Students’ Federation, to manipulate the sentiments of Hindu youth. Neither did they ever participate in the freedom struggle nor did they fight for the people in the post-globalisation period. Yet they are quick to brand others as “anti-national”.
Comrades, let us acknowledge the binary that has been created and clearly distinguish between fascists and anti-fascists and recognise that there is no centrist way out of it. As we proceed into the second phase of the movement we must be willing to name the ideological enemy and begin a discourse.
What exactly makes one antifascist? Anti-fascist or “antifa” is a radical pan-leftist politics of social revolution applied to fighting the far right. Its adherents are predominantly communists, socialists and anarchists who reject turning to the police or the state to halt the advance of fascism.
Although the popularity of anti-fascism has been linked with the rise of the Trump-Modi era, the first antifascists fought Benito Mussolini’s Blackshirts in the Italian countryside, exchanged fire and rotten eggs with Adolf Hitler’s Brownshirts in the taverns and alleyways of Munich and defended Madrid from Francisco Franco’s insurgent nationalist army. Beyond Europe, anti-fascism became a model of resistance for the Chinese against Japanese imperialism during World War II. The anti-fascist resistance to Latin American dictatorships saw the underground women of Chile stitching arpilleras to spread the message of their disappeared loved ones during the dictatorship of Pinochet, the Madre de Plaza de Mayo of Argentina gave rise to a new wave of extremely resilient women, the mothers of the disappeared children, who would lead the fight against the forced disappearance of their loved ones during the rule of dictator Perón. In the South-Asian subcontinent, newer modes of anti-fascist resistance made its way into people’s movements. In 1936 under the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq sari was banned in Pakistan, beloved musician Iqbal Bano wore a black sari to a Lahore stadium and sang, “Sab taaj uchale jayenge, Sab takht giraye jayenga….Hum dekhenge” to a crowd of 50,000 people chanting “Inquilab Zindabad”. In Modi’s India, the Bhim Army fights on the ground battles to ward off the evils of caste atrocities in the villages of Uttar Pradesh.
Earlier this month, Charlottesville, Virginia witnessed the horrific Unite the Right rally, led by the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. These ultra-right outfits attacked African-Americans, Jews and every other individual who opposed their bigotry, killing one and injuring several. Their equivalents are very geographically near to us in the form of RSS, ABVP and TMC, among others as they echo right-wing propaganda and modus operandi. It is time to recognise the opportunity that history has provided to align our resistance with the international ANTIFA movement, a movement that is emerging all over the world as the most effective form of resistance to challenge fascism, especially in urban spaces.
Recently we began our resistance against the attempt of the State to silence students’ dissenting voices with the draconian law abolishing student unions and establishing a stooge in the form of Student’s Council; not only in Jadavpur University, but all state universities across West Bengal. We must recognize that the movement cannot be exclusionary and based on the basic fundamental of “Amra Kara? Jadavpur” but instead be inclusive of all anti-fascist banners and individuals that resist totalitarianism with effective force.
The second phase of the movement also must create a democratic space for all student voices to be heard and not be overshadowed by a hypermasculine culture. Let us accept that Jadavpur University being a gender-sensitised space is a myth, as is very evident in the General Body meetings and even within the protest movements.
The demand for unionisation is of primary concern but equal importance ought to be put on a functioning gender cell and the demand for Gorkhaland’s right to self-determination. A campus where molesters roam free even after being condemned and where the will to engage in a debate is seen as “creating disharmony”, is not the kind of depoliticized campus democracy we strive for.
The time is now to put our beliefs into practice, to not be afraid to use direct action when it comes to battling fascism of all kinds.
Com. Bhagat Singh, in his last petition before he was hanged, told the British:
“Let us declare that the state of war does and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and its natural resources are exploited by a handful of parasites.”
We as a collective of independents, anarchists, communists and socialists, appeal to all student leaders and members of all leftist student groups to come together under the banner of ANTIFA, and create an unbreakable bond of left unity. Because who, if not us? And when, if not now?
For every voice throttled, every freedom curbed there should be a roar of protest. And the uproar must be partisan. Let us not wait for the fascists to patrol the streets, let us guard the streets with barricades of dissent.
With love and solidarity,
From your friendly university anarchists.
(via Eye Art Collective)