Last Chance For Opposition

rahul gandhi

The Karnataka pre-election surveys indicate a pro-Congress wave which naturally raise the spirits of the Congress and the opposition,while it sees BJP ICON Prime Minister publicly showing his hurt sentiments by weeping before a crowded rally at alleged calumnies by opposition leaders. So far so good.But the BJP is sure to use its trump card, highlighting divisive communal issues which usually leaves the opposition disoriented.In my view it is useless to try fighting BJP in the game it has an ace up its sleeve.On such occasions the opposition should bluntly and confidently tell the people that food and services costs come first in their agenda.

So the rumor is that the Bajrang Dal,an outfit that associated with so much mayhem and disturbance of peace,will be banned by Congress.Why should Congress leaders lose their cool about it.They should say without hemming and hawing that they would tolerate it as long as it abides by the law. But as I had repeatedly written earlier,the crux of the matter is not about papering over the consequences of Neoliberal economic policies in precipitate decline of people into poverty,crime and desperate rage and despair,but about facing them squarely and doing something decisively to control them.Otherwise the popular wave will soon subside and open the door to BJP sponsored mass hysteria and unseat them from power within months.The dominant political narrative needs must be changed.

It is frankly speaking the disastrous neo-liberal policies and the fantasies of globalization paradise that have led to gross poverty,insecurity of the people and the obscene accumulation of wealth and power among the super-rich and the chatter about the Forbes list.Then there is the adventurism of aggressive defence.

What is BJP strategy in a nutshell?Cut off the poor from subsidies and fleece them of their hard-earned savings by open and hidden taxes,and heap upon the rich ever more opportunity to make more money,relieve them more and more of their financial obligations,and take care of the fall-out by stoking up communal heat and isolating small communities or caste-groups to feed them on fantasies of past greatness with BJP help.Against that BJP BLITZ Opposition must continually strive to reiterate the cruel injustice of grinding cost of living,the swelling unemployment widening insecurity again and yet again.And deplore the attempt to play at communal politics as these troubles scalds the poor.

A brief word on my last screed and it’s apparent omission of a set of familiar facts.

This means the absence of any reference to the celebrated ‘Subaltern School of History’ which easily dominated the eighties and nicenties of the last century.On retrospect it seems to be an interesting interlude to me,unworthy of the tremendous prestige in its time.It claimed to have exposed besetting limitations of the Marxist approach and aimed at replacing it.But it let loose a flood of relativism which with prolific output tried to put out of court any sober rational attempt at some explanation of what happens in history.

To be sure Marxist accounts of historical phenomena often appears to be a dry documentation of class wars with statistics of economic data. A ghostly dance of abstractions bereft of human passion and pathos.Which is quite unsatisfactory.But by addressing this lack they got diverted more and more away from the socio-economic dynamic of social and historical development, ultimately abandoning it for good.

Their recourse to discursive practices and narratives of suppressed voices as well as undiscovered aspects ended only in subjective mazes that left history only in the region of a plurality of discourses. Their apparent exposure of inadequacies of Marxist history was actually transient triumphs.For example,the celebrated refutation of Marxist theories of class by Dipesh Chakraborty,a stalwart, was pointing to the rural roots of Bengali factory workers who could not shed their communal identity in spite of supposed deracnation by class formation. While true it only indicated the semi-feudal links of Bengali working class, which was a fact of Bengali or Indiancolonial economy. Chakraborty later moved to an Australian university and propounded a project of ‘ ‘provincializing Europe’.Whatever it meant at that time it was a grand but empty gesture as for quite some time Europe remained THE centre while the margins remained stuck in their old bac kyard.

The first recognized attempt at Subaltern history was its founder Ranajit Guha’s RULE OF PROPERTY,a poorly printed lean volume but it still remains a classic with its searing indictment of the colonial system of PERMANENT SETTLEMENT with zemindars that crushed Bangali peasantry with ruthless explootation and its attendant pain and helpless suffering for nearly one hundred and fifty years.But it is more credible because it is still moored in Marxist historical materialism.

His next and more famous book is on the tribal uprising led by Birsa Munda which shook the colonial rule to the core.The ELEMENTARY ASPECTS OF PEASANT INSURGENCY is a bigger volume,totally insulated from Marxist influence and devoted to a kind of discursive morphology of the particular species of popular upsurge. However it dwells less on extensive and intensive attacks and exploitation on the tribal people of Biihar and Bengal by the colonial power than the forms of mobilization,articulation of objectives and charisma of leadership.It recalls the tribal traditions of ‘Hool'(mass revolt) and the resentment against the Church,but glides over the Messianic inspiration from Birsa’s early education under church auspices.Besides it evades the methodological question if this revolt can be put in the same category as peasant revolt against colonial and semifeudal oppression. It valorizes the ‘popular, which it meant ‘traditional folk and feudal elements’ over the modern with urban overtones,and seeks to vindicate the former.

History which is closer to my idea is that of Bipan Chandra and his followers at JNU.They upheld an idea of India at once overarching and diverse.And gave body to that idea with painstaking research and careful analysis of data.Conceded negative aspects but disclosed creative regenerative process of modernity.Their work should be resumed.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator


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