Critique as Ideology: The Dissident Left and Maoists in India

A seminar organised by the Xenos Research Group, Department of Sociology, with the collaboration of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies, Department of Politics

The first of two talks on communalism, secularism and the Left in India by Saroj Giri, Xenos Visiting Fellow. (See also Thursday 13 November 2008).


Event Information

Location: Room 307, Richard Hoggart Building
Cost: Free – all are welcome
Time: 12 November 2008, 18:00 - 19:30

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  • john hutnyk  On 11/11/2008 at 23:43

    1. Critique as Ideology: The Dissident Left and Maoists in India

    Saroj Giri (Xenos Visiting Fellow, University of Delhi)

    A seminar organised by the Xenos Research Group, Department of Sociology,
    with the collaboration of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies, Department
    of Politics

    6.00pm-7.30pm, Wednesday 12 November 208
    Room 307, Richard Hoggart Building,
    Goldsmiths, University of London,
    Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW

    2. Hegemonic Secularism, Dominant Communalism: Imagining Social
    Transformation in India

    Saroj Giri (Xenos Visiting Fellow, University of Delhi)

    6.00pm-7.30pm, Thursday 13 November 2008
    Room 307, Richard Hoggart Building,
    Goldsmiths, University of London,
    Lewisham Way, London SE14 6NW

    *

    Abstracts

    1. The ‘humanitarian’ notion of people in extreme suffering and in need of
    relief, aid and services not just often promotes imperialist ideology of
    ‘humanitarian intervention’ but also, perhaps unexpectedly, goes to sustain
    certain tendencies on the left that thereby undermine the political
    subjectivity of people for revolutionary change. This humanitarian notion
    however often appears as a critique of neo-liberalism, particularly
    critical of the ‘withdrawal of the state’. Thus the involvement and active
    participation of large sections of the people in the Maoist armed struggle
    (‘people’s war’) in India is sought to be denied by portraying people as
    merely ‘suffering’, ‘trapped’ in a ‘conflict situation’ – calling for
    urgent humanitarian intervention (or dialogue, truth and reconciliation) by
    civil society and/or state. Or people are supposed to have become Maoists
    by default, only since the neoliberal state abandoned its ‘constitutional
    obligations’ to provide them basic goods and services. This is the argument
    of the old welfarist dissident left. The anti-’totalitarian’, post-Marxist
    left in turn presents the left-wing rebels as merely ‘capitalising on’ or
    ‘exploiting’ the subaltern’s helplessness. Radical armed struggle is
    portrayed as just the mirror image of the security-centric state – as
    undemocratic. Instead of seeing the germs of a political alternative in the
    Maoist resistance, the dissident left sees in it only warnings for the
    present state order to put its house in order ‘before it is too late’. It
    therefore displays a fundamental attachment to working in and through the
    ‘spaces of dissent’ and democratic, constitutional rights that are given by
    and presuppose the existing state order, thereby continuously deferring and
    displacing any political struggle for the overthrow of the state and the
    existing order as such.

    2. This paper asks: does the ‘secularism vs. communalism’ structuring of
    Indian politics, show a real divide and terms of contestation and struggle,
    or has it mostly served to displace and preclude the possibilities of
    radical social transformation? Communalism in India is mostly viewed either
    as an aberration, a deviation from the ‘secular fabric of our nation’, or
    as the (by-)product of the homogenising drive of modernity, of the modern
    secular Indian state, thereby creating competing proto-modern identities.
    In both cases, communalism is not treated as a force in itself but is
    regarded as epi-phenomenal or incidental to Indian secularism or modernity.
    It will be argued here that communalism is instead the ‘absent basis’ of
    the present socio-political dispensation, a persistent underlying core,
    sometimes overt, sometimes covert, the bone sustaining the flesh of the
    existing Indian nation-state which reproduces in the name of secular
    democracy. Secularism as the legitimising principle of state power here
    only appears as covering up the state and society’s actual basis in
    communalism. By treating communalism as an epi-phenomenonal threat, and
    thereby overlooking its full embedded strength, secularism defines the
    fight against communalism in a way which precludes any other fight against
    communalism except its own. Such an ideological structuring of the
    political field precludes attempts at radical social transformation. Given
    ‘hegemonic secularism and dominant communalism’, and a political field
    constitutively defined by this configuration, where do we therefore locate
    the political subject which would transcend the systemic logic for radical
    transformation of society and state? Bhagat Singh’s rather forgotten
    formulation of addressing the communal question through a social and
    economic revolution would be recalled here.

    Alberto Toscano
    Department of Sociology
    Goldsmiths, University of London
    New Cross
    London SE14 6NW
    United Kingdom

    Staff page:

    http://www.goldsmiths.ac.uk/sociology/staff/toscano.php

    Historical Materialism:

    http://mercury.soas.ac.uk/hm/

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  • Adity  On 12/11/2008 at 11:44

    Hi John, I’m really interested in both the papers you’ve mentioned here. I won’t be able to make it to the talks in London tomorrow and so I wondered if it was possible to get the transcripts of the talks or something. Please let me know. Thanks.
    Adity

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