Assam situation: A revolutionary perspective

Arup Kumar Baisya

Misconstrued notion galore
Marxist do not judge chauvinism primarily by its ideology but rather what is their position in a concrete situation of given relations and struggles between the classes. In Assam, it’s a common perception that the defeat of chauvinism is the precondition for the rise of radical workers-peasants movement. But there are moments in history when both get intertwined in certain space-time in a relation of simultaneity and these moments are revolutionary moments. In absence of a revolutionary force, these moments are also moments of crisis, moments of social paralysis when social activism is hamstrung by intellectual bankruptcy in myriads of ideas. The ideas revolve around broad institutional rationality or irrational illusion. In Assam, barring a few, the intellectual opinion digs into historical anecdote in a stereotypical manner. The discourse on the history of the Assam’s past in popular political parlance gets constantly constructed and reconstructed with a vision to the future. This is bound to happen because the history of the Assam’s past, like the socio-historical past of mankind, is not fixed, one-dimensional and completely knowable for all. Facts are not judged in a social context; the static representation of the past in the Hindutva-vadi discourse is not contested with a future project that does not invent the past, but articulates it. The moments of history is lost by hovering around the decadent and static ideas. The static ideas of rationality seek solace in stalemate and in status quo under the garb of peace and tranquility, be it inhuman beneath the surface, the surface that is not penetrated. These ideas address the citizenship question in Assam in a statist format. The decadent irrationality digs up the past to romanticize the irrational as rational. This irrationality even eulogizes the extreme chauvinist experiment of ULFA.  From a statist viewpoint, the Indian Maoists extended their support to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). But judging from the people’s point of view, it would not have been difficult to see that the ULFA’s secessionist struggle has a structural pull towards converting the struggle for Assamese self determinism into aggressive chauvinism. So long as the leadership of sub-nationalism is in the hands of middle class both in content and form, it will never be a successful assertion of the oppressed community. Rather, it will channelize the collective energy of sub-national suppressed angst and ego into a psychological warfare against a imaginary other, the other which is more oppressed and vulnerable under the hegemony of suppressed sub-nationalism. This continuous psychological warfare in the mundane quotidian affairs sometime burst into aggression against the imaginary ‘other’ to eliminate and annihilate the other’s mere physical existence. This aggression happens in a particular moment of change of dynamics in the relation between the sub-nationalism and their real and imaginary enemy. This is what happened during Assam Movement, during ULFA movement and in present phase revolving around citizenship question. To visualise the Assam movement as the assertion of oppressed nationality is a defocus aberration. The position of CPI(ML), liberation, during Assam movement to treat Assam movement which resulted into the mass killings of thousands of toiling masses as progressive revealed such aberration from Marxists premise of social relation and class struggle. Assam being a multi-identity state has diverse identity aspirations and assertions with inherent contradictions developed from multitudinous interests overlapping each other. However, under the circumstantial pull, a consensus is emerging within the left radicals.
Status Quo contrived
Every phase of aggressive chauvinism in Assam has its own social context and national and international perspective. We must delve into these aspects to articulate the moments of history. The revolutionary tradition of articulating such moment of history needs to be detoured and decoded for appreciation of such moment of history. In an article on the tasks of the Revolution in India, Trotsky compared the conditions for the revolutionary struggle with those in Russia in 1917. He concluded that the central difference is the lack of a Bolshevik party. In addition to the lack of a Bolshevik Party as mentioned by Trotsky in assessing the pre-independence Indian situation, my proposition here is to delineate the fact that the present moment in Assam is a moment of simultaneity of the defeat of chauvinism and rise of radical worker-peasant movement in the vacuum created by the absence of grass-root organizations of the workers and peasants.

The chauvinism in this phase in Assam is revolving around the question of citizenship. The twist and turn, the diverse interpretations, the division of camp-followers, the different shades of compromise with communal-chauvinism, the wishful thinking of democratic resolution by only hammering on ideological front and on the conscience of enlightened middle class are emanating from a status quoist approach without dwelling on the changing social milieu.

Global capital personified
The fanning of communal and chauvinist passions on the question of citizenship has its national and international ramifications. Nationally, the communal fascists force is in the helm of affairs. The state-finance nexus for accumulation of capital through dispossession is most glaring under the present dispensation. One of the myriad kinds of dispossession is the dispossession of vulnerable communities from land. Disfranchisement makes the communities especially the dalits and muslims vulnerable to fall prey to such accumulation through dispossession without resistance. They become cheap labour as migrant workers in ongoing construction work under look-act policy and become prone to inhuman intimidation. The recent incidents of inhuman intimidation of internally migrated workers substantiate the proposition of creating cheap vulnerable labour through disenfranchisement. The future politics of Indian North-East and Bangladesh must also be judged from the changing dynamics of US-China relation vis-à-vis India’s position. However, this dimension is out of the purview of this article.

The global capitalists, the capital personified, have a task to divide the working class to dismantle the social power of the workers. In the global market, the textile sector and the garment industry of Bangladesh is an important work-site for the profit of the global capitalist players. The workers of the garment industry of Bangladesh have been continuing their valiant struggle against their inhuman exploitation since long. The unity of these struggling workers with the rest of workers in diverse sectors in Bangladesh and the support of the workers of the neighbouring countries like India is the precondition for the transformation of their movement into higher level, even to achieve some form of limited success. In the backdrop of the rising anti-imperialist sentiment in Bangladesh, the collapse of a factory in the Rana Plaza complex, the middle class disenchantment as revealed in the Sahbagh movement, the bogey of Hindu persecution in Bangladesh and the resultant large-scale migration has been played and the Bengali Hindu sentiment in India in the states like Assam and West Bengal has been given a momentous push through meticulous well-orchestrated campaign by the Sangh Parivar. This has in turn oiled the chauvinist machine in Assam.

Chauvinist project rejected
The mainstream left in Assam, without having any vision for the future, has jumped the gun and become the catalyst to cement the fissures within the chauvinist and communal forces.  But despite all these hullaballoo and media renderings, mass-hysteria and large-scale mass-mobilisation of the Assamese masses has not been visible. The Assamese middle class has lost their mass appeal and become weakened due to internal class-community dynamics. The Koch-Rajbongshis and Jhrakhandi-Adibasi which constitute the formidable section of Assam’s population have already launched a vibrant movement to assert their community rights. The Koch-Rajbongshis who are considered as an important part of the core of Assamese sub-nationality is showing the sign of breaking away from this core by asserting their own linguistic right. The large section of new generation from middle class families has been transformed into either educated skilled labour serving the private capital or job-seekers as skilled labour and they have their own priorities. In the job-market, Bengalis are no longer their competitor, even in the central Government sector. The erstwhile semi-independent contractors and suppliers at the district and state level have already entered into the global chain of finance and lost their relative freedom to maneuver the policy decision and the contract system, and they don’t find their Bengali sub-contractors at bay. The population in the idyllic rural landscape engrossed in peasant economy no longer prevails to become the continuum of chauvinist ideology and does not find the middle class story suitable for evening gossip. The rural landscape has changed so much that the majority has become wage-earners who have their own class issues to internalize and it has its ramification when socially channelized. The passive mass-wisdom generated from the collective learning from the long history of successive failure of chauvinist experiments has blunted the efficacy of mass-appeal from chauvinist camp. All these factors created the moment of defeat of chauvinism as a social force.

Chauvinist project arrogated
But on the flip side of it, the state has directly arrogated the role of chauvinism and communalism and thus establishing their ideological and economic hegemony more and more by means of coercion instead of consent. The brazen display of armed and coercive might of the state during each and every phase of the implementation of NRC process reveals the real story. This story simultaneously delineate the moment of radical movement of workers and peasants. In every work-space especially in the urban landscape, large-scale mixed group of workers cutting across communities are visible and they are showing their precariat character of sporadic outbursts on their own class issues. This has created an objectivity of unity of workers of diverse identities, the objectivity of fragile and unconscious unity that needs to be cemented further through left radical class politics and democratic nationalism. The display of the might of the state has paralysed the social life through psychological war against the masses and this has been possible due to the absence of workers-peasants organizations, the own organizations of the toiling masses, inefficacy of the institutions of the state to build consent due to neo-liberal policy persuasion and the failure of the middle class project which has already been arrogated by the state due to the undemocratic and institutionalized social discourse of civil society.

The radical ideas must find its own institutions to reach to the masses and as such building of workers-peasants organizations must be the primary task to channelize the radical ideas to the masses. The present Assam is a fit case to extend the modified logic of Trotsky in the context of pre-independence Indian situation to delineate the social milieu of Assam as the revolutionary moment of simultaneity of defeating the chauvinism and radicalizing the working class movement. In that sense, the project to fulfill Assamese linguistic aspiration must be a revolutionary one. We must stand up for the cause of Assam as a revolutionary project ensuring the defeat of chauvinism. In a different context, one can draw a similarity with the stand of Marx and Engels on Poland. In 1875, a meeting took place to commemorate the polish uprising of 22 January 1863. Among many communist leaders of German Party, Marx and Engels spoke on the occasion. To justify their participation, Engels said, “We have spoken here, of the reasons why the revolutionaries of all countries are bound to sympathize with and stand up for the cause of Poland. Only one point has been forgotten and it is this: the political situation into which Poland has been brought is a thoroughly revolutionary one, and it leaves Poland with no other choice but to be revolutionary or perish.

Sep 2, 2018

Arup Kumar Baisya

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