This is not really an article of any sort, it is more like a story being said in many parts. If you stick with me on this; you may like it: you may even learn something about why things are the way they are today by the end of it all. It’s a long story. Story of my Father and myself. Goes back over 75 years and it unwinds all over the Imperial British Empire; on which the sun would never set, (or so they told us). I don’t know. I have no opinion. You tell me after I have laid out my story. It is in many parts; and, yes — Its a Long Story.

I was a Further Education College Lecturer in East London. If you don’t know what they are, then let me fill you in. In London, by law, you are required to remain in school till the age of 16, whereupon you would get a General Certificate of Secondary Education, which loosely corresponds to Class 10 Certification in the Indian Republic.

After that you would either enter the workforce, continue to your GCE Advanced Levels, where you would specialise in 3 subjects to prepare for University or go onto a Vocational Institute to learn a trade; such as being an Electrician, a Plumber or an AutoMechanic or BrickLayer. All these Working Class Skilled trades require a Licence and carry great responsibility; you don’t want your frontroom to burn down from faulty wiring or to die in your sleep from a carbon monoxide gas leak from your central heating, or your house to fall down around your ears from incorrect construction. Licensing is so that the work is standardised for Insurance purposes and for meeting strict Building and Planning Codes and also fulfilling the State’s need of rapid industrialisation.

Further Education Colleges were called Working Mans’ Institutes or Technical Colleges, and they come under the huge umbrella which also enveloped Working Men’s Clubs, the Trade Unions and political affiliations within the Labour Party and also very tangentially with the huge, but now defunct, CPGB — The Communist Party of Great Britain.

The same CPGB that carried people like Eric Hobsbawm, Rajani Palme Dutt, Tilda Swinton, Bob Crow, Sylvia Pankhurst, JBS Haldane. The list of eminence is endless and are amongst some of the most progressive personalities that ever lived after the First World War or The War To End All Wars, (the interim period since that slogan was slurred has seen nothing but War for the past 100 years) and of course, the Daily Worker newspaper.

Vocational Institutes are a bridge offering a second chance to get into Higher Education and University by giving you the opportunity to take or even re-take your Advanced Levels or to complete your Higher National Certificates and Diplomas; (which are specific to Engineering) and finally complete your Bachelors Degree from a fully fledged University.

I used to teach Maths and Programming and I had a theory which I used that was very simple. These are subjects which are very interesting but are made to appear daunting by those who, themselves, seemed to have a very un-clear grasp on the fundamental aspects of the subject itself. They can make it come off as boring and pedantic and turn people off.

There is a reason why Zero is a quantity and why you can keep halving something but can never ever get to Zero as a whole number. In our day to day lives these concepts are meaningless, however they become very important when you are programming computers to deal with fractions and integers (whole numbers), fractions that repeat themselves forever and their representations within bits and bytes and registers that are basically electrical transistors, capacitors and old fashioned valves and diodes. A lot of Maths Teachers and Lecturers hide their lack of knowledge of basic principles by enforcing their sudden and newly acquired classroom authority and demand that you accept whatever they say as the Truth and not to question their shaky expertise of the matter at hand.

My take was simple. Teaching is hard work as it is and I chose not to make it any harder by getting heavy with it all. The people in my classes came from a full day of work to attend night school, even weekend classes and they wanted to learn. They were single mothers and single fathers who had to bring their toddlers to the College Play Centre and attend these 3 and 6 hour marathons. It would have been sinful and a crime on my part to now enforce my authority over them. (I have no belief in God or Religion; to me these are just protocols and mechanisms that employs superstitions to suppress the urge of the Human Mind to constantly ask questions of the surroundings in which It finds itself. I am, however, a great believer in Karma; that what goes around comes around). I am also an ardent believer that Education and Dissemination of Knowledge and the Systematic Acquisition of Critical Thinking is the Great Leveller. It is the ONLY thing that can lift the Human Condition.

I am sorry, I got sidetracked here. So; yeah okay, hold on; what was my famous theory? Nothing too heavy really. Just present a concept like it is a story, have fun explaining it, involve the guys with it and before you know it you realise that you sort of “get the gist of it”. After that, Bob’s your Uncle mate, you will go out into the Great Blue Yonder and explore the concept, apply it, experiment with it and you will soon be the master of your own destiny. You will own your own destiny, not ever be beholden to anyone. But before any of that even happens, you yourself MUST know what you are talking about in all its nuances and intricacies, so that you are able to lay it out honestly and clearly without being forced to be defensive on anything, (in the true spirit of the Pursuit of Truth). That’s what teaching is all about really. Like I said; — Nothing too heavy.

This is the first part of my story; Buffalo Soldiers. Written in words, as it were, about something that happened over 75 years ago as told to me by my Father in patches. He passed away in 2008 and I myself; at the age of 17 in 1981 left home in Bahrain, (where I was born in 1964; roughly 6 months before the Demonic Winston Churchill left us, when the Island was a British Protectorate), to make my own way through life and have only now at the age of 56 returned “back-home”, as it were; my Father never really spoke about those events and I only gleaned it from conversations he would have with his friends when he would take me along so as he could “catch-up”. It is now that I feel he suffered from what is today fashionably called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from what he saw and did and what he went through, which did not in any way affect his ability to function in his job. It did colour his world view and why would it not.

Buffalo Soldiers were African-Americans, who; after the end of the American Civil War in 1865, enlisted in the Union Army as the newly formed United States began to plunder and overpower the Native American peoples of the Centre and West of the North American Continental landmass. Those newly liberated people, who had till then been inhumanely held captive as domestic workers and expendable plantation labour (inter-generationally), were given an offer to enlist within a segregated unit called the 10th Cavalry. The European Imperialists of the 13 initial States that formed the United States directed them, amongst others, to quell the Peoples of the First Nations so as to confiscate their lands to expand White domination over their resources.

The term Buffalo Soldier is an uniquely American term that refers to when a “Lesser” or “Coloured” people kill another Ethnic in the service of the White OverLord. The term was unknown outside the United States and the Caribbean Nations until Bob Marley produced a song by the same name which highlighted their unique story.

What may perhaps remain odd in your mind, is why would a recently subjugated people, just liberated from indenture; readily engage in enslaving another people. Before you seek to demonise them, you need to realise that the 10th Cavalry was a very small component and it attracted young men who needed cash employment. The majority were barely literate and their only other option would have been to join the migration to the cities of Detroit and Chicago to sell their only resource; their labour, in the machine intensive factories that were beginning to fuel the American Industrial Revolution.

House Niggas is another uniquely American term and it refers to the African-American who was allowed into the White OverLord’s kitchen to eat the scraps off the floor. This was a privilege granted in return for acting as an informant on the state of the captives in the Outhouse; (amongst his other duties being); keeping them in line if there were any inklings of sedition, unionisation or rebellion to the relentless work schedule. In today’s world, they would be the Ethnic Collaborator; selling themselves to the “House Mastta” for money. This term was (and is) used extensively by African-Americans to those amongst them who have sold-out and gone done them wrong. The variation on this theme is the Brown Sahib within the context of EuroImperialism in South Asia.

Was my father a Buffalo Soldier in the Indian 8th Army in 1944? Was he an 18 year old paid mercenary in the employ of Colonial British OverLords in a War that had nothing to do with him; a War where he was, (at the time), happily complicit in slaughtering German and Italian HardBoys all over North Africa and the Palestinian Mandate when he himself was an enslaved Colonial Wog in his OWN HOMELAND. (WOG being an abbreviation of Western Oriental Gentleman, a term lovingly used by the British Imperialists to define any darkie that could speak, read and write the English language; in the 1960s and 70s that began to morph into the warmly endearing term Paki; (which today is worn as a Badge of Honour by the 2nd Generation British-Asians like myself– be them Indian or Pakistani): Proud to be a Paki you will see us say even as we approach our 60s.

This is my Father somewhere; either in the Palestinian Mandate or in North Africa in the very mid to late 1944 to 1946’s with the massive and legendary Indian 8th Army. He was a Radio Operator. In fact, it was the only job he ever did. The events that he was deeply involved in; what he did, what he saw; those events are what has led to the Middle East, Near East, South East Asia and ofcourse South Asia being today a fragmented dystopic quagmire, easily exploitable by religious nationalism and semi-literate tribesmen.

He was among the 4 Million Volunteers, both men and women, (call them children if you like as most were 16 and the oldest were 20, if even that); from Occupied British India who fought like heroes in the Indian 8th and 14th Army during the Great War against Fascism in North Africa, Continental Europe; against Japanese Imperialism in Burma, as well as all over the North Eastern Frontier Territories. Their story reverberates all the way to the Line of Actual Control today. Their story reverberates as EAMs at the LOC. Their story reverberates over the United Kingdom and lays the foundation of “Paki Power”. Their story is entrenched in the history of the Trucial States, in Bahrain, Aden, Yemen. It goes all the way to Lhasa.

This story is not attempting to glorify anything, or even counter the silver-screen extravaganzas. It is not even attempting to be a Myth-Buster. It is just a story of events that the Working Classes were thrown into and what that happened to my Father from 1943 onwards. I intertwine my own story within it from 1964, (when I was born); and from where I will pick it up in order to give you a perspective (perhaps); of why things are the way they are. You make of it what you will. Use it to justify your own positions that keep your refrigerator so well-stocked or use it to untie fiction from fact.

Hopefully, (although I feel it will be highly unlikely); it will help you to stop calling anyone Anti-National, Terrorists, Lovers of Muslims (insert Christian, Buddhist and Hindus here to suit your agenda) and Degenerate Commie Bastards. (Oh yeah; dont forget the Imperialists’ favourite — Inter Ethnic Rivalry). That’s the one that keeps the — Till ChaChinging.

At the very least it will help add some substance to “Mu thor ke jaawabh” — A Jaw Breaking Reply.

Back 75 years ago, that Jaw Breaking Reply was given by my Father’s Generation to the very best that Imperialism had on offer. Anything you say today is more or less talk emanating through your rectal orifice. If you were however to surprisingly go against the grain and use historical facts, what you say would at least smell better if nothing else; although as a gutless KeyBoard Warrior the pay won’t be as good as you get for selling your ass for money in your perpetual employment as Imperialism’s Inter-Generational House Nigga.

Follow this story of those 4 Million Volunteers. It is story of the Indian 8th and 14th Army. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Adivasi (or the First People of the Land. Adi being Original and Vasi being Dwellers). It happened just about 75 years ago. Try to understand it or else you will soon end up a penniless beggar in your own country of birth. Your country that you claim your heart bleeds for. Don’t demean yourself into a pool of sewage but try to lift yourself in the true spirit of what the International Working Class has achieved since 1943.

Supratim Barman, MSc – Queen Mary – University of London. Kolkata, The Republic of India. I live between the two extreme edges of what was the British Empire, in the vast and important cities of Kolkata and London; with the midpoint being where I was born and where I grew up, Bahrain: observing and experiencing events in a time of great change.


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWSLETTER


 

2 Comments

  1. Avatar Sumanta Banerjee says:

    Dear Supratim

    Your narration of your father’s military life, which you use as a springboard for leaping into the wider historical dimensions, epitomizes a much more complex relationship between the Indian state’s armed forces and the different ethnic/ linguistic/religious communities that they are required to rule over in the name of containing `insurgencies’ – in Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur and other parts of the country. Just as in the past, our jawans today are being used as `buffalo soldiers’ to kill tribal insurgents in Chhattisgarh, and deployed as cannon-fodders to face the Chinese at the borders leading to the death of young lives.

    • Avatar Supratim Barman says:

      Dear Sumanta, Thank You very much for reading the story with interest. I totally understand your point of view. This story is not going where you think it is. It has a twist in the tale yet. Stick with me. It is very interesting.