National Situation

The Question of the Decolonization of Education in Fascist India

We are publishing this article by Comrade Murzban Jal. We consider it an important contribution to current debates, both on how to characterize the regime, and on the nature of its ideological offensive. We hope it will provoke thinking and discussion. We are open to dialogues, and will be willing to consider publication of responses.  -- Administrator, RS Website

MURZBAN JAL

 

 

Castro sitting in military uniform in the United Nations Organization does not scandalize the underdeveloped countries. What Castro demonstrates is the consciousness he has of the continuing existence of the rule of violence.....(Is this revolutionary violence? My insertion, M.J.)....

 

Frantz Fanon.

 

The European elite undertook to manufacture a native elite. They picked out promising adolescents; they branded then, as with a red-hot iron, with the principles of western culture; they stuffed their mouths with high-sounding  phrases, grand glutinous words that stuck to the teeth. After a short stay in the mother country they were sent home, whitewashed. These walking lies had nothing left to say to their brothers; they only echoed.

 

Jean-Paul Sartre.

 

 

The School, this privileged instrument of the bourgeois sociodicy which confers on the privileged the supreme privilege of not seeing themselves as privileged, manages the more easily to convince the disinherited that they owe their scholastic and social destiny to their lack of gifts or merits, because in matters of culture absolute dispossession excludes awareness of being dispossessed.

 

Pierre Bourdieu & Jean-Claude Passeron.

 

 

 

The Production of Reified-Fascist Consciousness

 

Following the triumph of the fascists in the 2014 National Elections and following the consolidation of power by the Indian fascists led by theRashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the National Voluntary Corps which has paralyzed the secular and democratic forces, the fascists now seek a complete transformation of the educational system where they claim that hitherto education under the auspices was not nationalist, but determined by left-wing ideologues. The Indian fascist movement which was born in the early 1920s with V.D. Savarkar’s book Essentials of  Hindutva and the birth of the RSS in 1925 which learnt a lot from the fascist movement in Italyand later from German Nazism imagines that it is truly nationalistic.

The central part of thinking a critical education programme is to be understood within the historical materialist matrix of concrete modes of production and the class struggle emerging thereon. Talking of education devoid of the class struggle is mere empty talk. Also talking of a “general education system” is mere rhetoric. Instead of this empty talk, or talking through a form of what is known as “false consciousness”, which we know since Lukacs’s History and Class Consciousness as the reification of consciousness”, we talk through a concrete historical perspective. This concrete historical perspective we call after Antonio Gramsci as historicism and humanism. Class struggle will govern this process of historicism and humanism.   

In actuality we shall be arguing out a new education programme rearticulating the entire project of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment constituted within the theoretical problematic of class struggle. At the outset it must be said that by both the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, we do not mean only the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, but the World Project of Renaissance and Enlightenment. We base our model on Samir Amin’s theory of the 3 waves of Universal Humanity—Amin calls it the “Humanist Concept of Universalism”—where the Eurocentric model of unilinear history is displaced with a multilinear and dialogical theory of history.[i] In this new theory of history, a very different idea of emergence of knowledge systems emerged where in the ancient world, Indian, Iranian, Greek, Chinese, Babylonian and other systems in a state of dialogical discourse initiated the emergence of philosophical and scientific discourse. This, in a certain way, one can call the basis of the emergence of philosophical and scientific thinking.

What we claim is there is no “Western” world, nor no “Eastern” world. This location of the “West” and the “East” are very modern fictions that emerged in the cranium of the British imperial forces. From this fiction, there emerges another fiction: that there is something called an “Eastern Method of Education”—this imagined “East” that is said to be spiritual—in contrast to an equally imagined “Western Method of Education”—with its pretensions of rationality and objectivity. The entire education methodology in India is based on this illusion. Thus when we claim that we deal with ‘education’ we are merely educating illusions. What one calls the “colonizing of education” is the actually a systematic structure created merely for geo-political reasons.

It is at this vantage-point where one relates education policy that is yet in the grips of the ideology of the colonized mind with the central ideological perspective of geo-politics. The education system of this colonized mind based on imperial geo-politics creates an imperial form of Occidental cosmology.  Here it is imperative to say that the ruling ideology of Occidental civilization is its essential expansionist mode. We know that thinkers like Paulo Friere and Frantz Fanon in realizing the inherent imperialist attitude of the contemporary education system, argued for an alternative form of education. What this “imperialism of categories” (to borrow Ashis Nandy’s term) does is that it creates as the model the American model of education, forgetting this inherent imperialism and destruction inherent in this model.  Being centrifugal in mode, this Occidental model divides the world into two regions: the centre and the periphery.  A part of the periphery, the Occidental center hopes to occupy by being accepted with consent and other part, or “the margin” which rejects the center and labeled as “Evil” has to be destroyed.  According to Occidental cosmology reality is a manipulable thing to be ruled over.  Instead of real humanity and real nature we have the understanding of reality (both nature and humanity) as either something inert, almost dead. Knowledge in this perspective is about power. The imperialist have perfected this macabre ‘art’ of power politics.

And instead of the concept of the real sensuous self, Sigmund Freud’s architecture of the repressed unconsciousness enters the discourse of education that is governed by the old colonial patterns and the new imperialists’ interventions in education in India.  Not only does the idea of the repressed unconsciousness fit into the concept of the authoritarian nature of the colonized person, but also the ideas of neurosis and psychosis.  This imperialist and masculine ‘man’ that the Indian elites are trying to imitate, mime and create (in the celebration of the will to imperialist power) is constructed thus that it is made to rules nature and other people. 

The model that is created is the pyramid model. It is hierarchical and despotic. On top of the pyramid of life is perched the western male.  But this western male who sits on the pyramid is suffering with repressed unconscious. The early model in the era of developing capitalism there was the rational ego that was recognized as the centre of the human psyche. Now things have changed.  Instead as Theodor Adorno and Slavoj Zizek have pointed out, late capitalism has erased this model of the ego and instead has replaced it with the idea of narcissistic and psychotic self who imagines himself to be at the centre of the world. Thus it is not merely that the elites are on top of society and the western male is on top of the world. Instead we have the neurotic and psychotic elites who are sitting on the top of the pyramid.

This is the philosophical basis lies for the understanding of the emergence of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist education. We need a coherent anti-colonial and anti-imperialist education. This philosophical and scientific thinking has to be highlighted. After all, as Fanon had rightly stated, we all are black skins who are wearing white masks.

That is why we also say that there is something else and that education does not exist by itself, just as the political economy and the ideology of “development” do not exist by itself. Education has as its core class struggle and the struggle to regain humanity and thus those who talk of “development” without mentioning that this “development” that the Indian state is now talking of is only brutal capitalist development, one is only talking through the air. What one does in this phantasmagorical talk of development devoid of humanity is actually that one actually imposes what one knows after David Harvey as “accumulation through dispossession”. Accumulation through dispossession, whilst being a process of accumulation of capital (and poverty) is also an accumulation of alienation, repression and psychosis. What it creates is a divided self, a self that is hysterical and paranoid. The system that modern bourgeois education system seeks to produce is a broken down society and a broken down individual. 

Instead of the colonial-capitalist education system in India, one needs to articulate a completely new and different problematic itself, that we call “synesthesia”—a very different  educational philosophy where reason, feeling and thinking are synthesized as the unity of philosophy, science and the arts. The leitmotiv of articulating a philosophy of people’s education policy is based on understanding education as cultivation of humanity as humanity. The idea of the historicization and humanization of knowledge is the essence of this New Peoples’ Education Program. The triad of science, philosophy and the arts serves as the methodological basis of this program. We have thus a complex in our framework: the understanding of the laws governing nature and society and the philosophical issues of the quest of truth, ethics and beauty.  The questions of the sublime and the beautiful are central to this New Education Paradigm. To create the sublime feeling of enthusiasm is the main part of this program. 

It is thus that we claim that a people’s education document is based on the understanding of education as cultivation of the human mind. But it is not merely the cultivation of the mind that is important, but the cultivation of humanity as humanity. Its starting point is philosophical: its main questions are: “what can humanity know?”, “what can humanity do?”, “what can humanity hope for?”and “how can free humanity be truly possible?” The modern principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are its guiding principles. Challenging educational orthodoxy is its leitmotiv. De-schooling society is its essence, since schools have become the prison-houses and panoptic systems that imprison young minds. To render the necessity of critical thinking is its motto. Philosophy, science and aesthetics are its three basic epistemological components. Perception, understanding and reason along with feeling, willing and desiring are its ontological components. As Marx had once said: let us produce according to the laws of beauty.[ii] The critique of human alienation and the commoditization of education are its important concerns. Not only the critique of alienation in modern capitalist India, but also the critique of alienation in traditional caste-based society, combined with alienation in centres of learning (schools, colleges and universities) shall be forms of communist programmatic concerns.

The most fundamental point in this theory of alienation is how alienation has been mobilized by the Indian ruling elites in the service of globalization and imperialism and in the background of western post-colonial colonial power. Look what the colonialists think of the speaking and thinking subject that was and is subjected to colonialism:

 

What? They are able to talk by themselves? Just look at what we have made of them! We did not doubt but that they would accept our ideals, since they accused us of not being faithful to them. Then, indeed, Europe could believe in her mission; she had Hellenized the Asians; she had created a new breed, the Graeco-Latin Negroes.[iii]

           

 

We must admit: we are this strange breed of Graeco-Latin Negroes. We are this “hellish other” (to borrow Sartre’s term from a different context). The only thing is that we feel that we are less black than the Graeco-Latin Negroes. In fact we think that we are almost as white as the Europeans themselves. The Hindutva thesis that V.D. Savarkar had launched in the early 1920s in the background of constructing a phantasmagoria of an imagined “Aryan race” is precisely this thesis of British colonialism that the reactionary elite in India are now emulating.

 

 

The Need for a Radical Decolonization

 

The following points are important in the scientific, philosophizing and aestheticization of education[iv]:

 

(1)   Education is in actuality of educating the class instincts of the India working classes. It is directed against the thesis of the “white man’s burden” that the Indian elites are carrying since 1947. It is the tearing out the white masks. Tear of the masks and seek humanity that lies behind these phantasmagorical masks.

(2)   Consequently the cultivation of humanity is the culmination of the Subaltern Indian Renaissance. But this Indian Renaissance is a Renaissance “from below”. It therefore follows the subaltern logic of class struggle.  It studies humanity as humanity (free from superstitions, free from semi-feudal values, free from caste and patriarchy, free from communal hatred, free from scarcity and want and free from the capitalism mode of production). As the culmination of the Indian Renaissance “from below”, it talks of a New Humanism for India. Cultural transformation is the main point in this program of Communist New Humanism.

(3)   It follows the research methodology of historical dialectics where science is seen as a unified science. Here neither are the different branches of the social sciences split from one another, nor are the natural sciences split from the social sciences.  It sees the unity of the natural and the social sciences since it sees the unity of nature and society. Its method is human natural science also known as the natural science of humanity[v], where social history as natural history[vi] is marked as its leitmotiv. By science we do not mean a form of scientism or positivism. Instead we have something very different:

 

History itself is a real part of natural history—of nature developing into humanity. Natural science will in time incorporate into itself the science of humanity, just as the science of humanity will incorporate into itself natural science: there will be one science.[vii]

 

Science here, in the very Marxist humanist sense, does not merely study facts, but as human natural sciences unites facts and ethics. It always sees the human basis of facts. The humanization and naturalization of knowledge and education is thus its philosophical premise. What human natural science does is that it critiques the dominant methods of education that have been borrowed from colonialism. The critique of Eurocentrism (the method that claims that the West is inherently endowed with reason, whilst the rest of the world can only develop on borrowed European and American methods, a model that is the basis of the neo-liberal political economy of globalization, a political economy which the new establishment strongly believes in) and the critique of the colonization of education find its place in this process of the humanization of education. Thus this critique of Eurocentrism is also coupled with the critique of the indigenous colonization (known as “Brahmanization”) of education. The New Indian Renaissance finds two sites of the colonization of the Indian mind: Eurocentrism and Brahmanism. Whilst we involve the method of humanization of knowledge, we also set up different interventions within the domain of a general theory of humanist education where Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Humanity, the Hegelian dialectical method, the Marxist critique of capitalism, Jotiba Phule’s theory and praxis of “manuski” (humanist) education, along with B.R. Ambedkar’s program of the annihilation of caste (and semi-feudal values) is taken as its motif. Thus the best that world education has to offer shall be taken.

(4)    With these principles of the New Indian Renaissance and human natural science, the role of education as a weapon that grips the masses comes up. Education as the cultivation of the human mind and as the study of knowledge links this scientific enterprise with developing societies. The critique of pre-capitalist forms of exploitation (wrongly christened “Indian feudalism”) and neo-liberalism finds its place here. A rethinking of Indian history from the perspective of the Asiatic mode of production where caste, communal-fascism and patriarchy along with economic and cultural underdevelopment is undertaken in the production of the Renaissance “from below”. The philosophical and scientific foundations of the annihilation of caste, communal antagonisms and patriarchy are laid in this paradigm of the New Indian Renaissance.

(5)   From this we deduce the political economy of underdevelopment where the centre and periphery of globalized capitalism’s accumulation of wealth is scientifically critiqued. Both the economic and cultural dependency of India on borrowed colonial models is reviewed.

(6)   This critique of the colonization of the mind is not based on the ideology of abstract intellectualism. Instead it unites the intellect and the will, thinking and feeling. It is consequently based on what is now being called “synesthesia” or the “union of the senses”. The leitmotiv of this project of synesthesia is philosophical, in the sense it will seek the groundwork of knowledge based on the question: “how is free humanity possible?” It thus seeks the groundwork for the possibilities of free humanity. What we mean by “education” is consequently based on the above premises. G.W.F. Hegel’s theory of dialectical logic, Marx’s critique of alienation and his reworking of Ludwig Feuerbach idea of “species being”, Gramsci’s theory the organic intellectual, J.P. Naik’s theory of understanding education as a Revolution with a Revolution, Ivan Illich’s idea of de-schooling society and Paulo Friere and Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas of bourgeois education as cultural subjugation shall be the guiding principles of a people’s education policy. The idea of challenging educational orthodoxy is the leitmotiv of this program.

(7)   Understanding this challenging of educational orthodoxy impels us to articulate the role played by material labour in this New Cultural Transformation. In this materialist ontology of labour a different understanding of India’s social history is seen where the Asiatic mode of production is articulated along with the traditional Asian craft and guild system from an anti-Brahmanical perspective. In this critique of Brahmanism one documents the labour movement in India. One also documents how the false division of people as pure and clean (the Brahmans) and unclean and impure (the Shudras), along with the false construction of Brahmanical rituals as “spiritual sciences” and the consequent spurious division of the “spiritual sciences” and the “indigenous technical-material sciences”, was made since Shankara’s counterrevolution against Buddhism in 8th century C.E. What happens in this divided world is that rituals and mantras were declared true, whilst material sciences were declared false. This division between sacred and the profane also led to the declaration that the latter were false and also that the castes practicing them were polluted and unclean. The Brahman/Shudra hostility based on the purity/pollution opposition was institutionalized since this counterrevolution.[viii]But these Brahman/Shudra, material labour/spiritual labour divisions were never seriously challenged, nor was the dubious theory of the privileging the so-called “spiritual sciences” challenged, even in independent India. Both pre-colonial India as also British colonialism took this division and opposition as something natural to Indian civilization. Whilst industrialization in India did break up the village communities, the caste system was revamped in modern lines to suit modern capitalism. The old opposition between Brahman and Shudra was transformed into the new opposition of bourgeois and proletariat. What one now needs to do is to critique both the traditional caste mode of production as also the destructive industrial model that India has undertaken as the dominant economy since independence. Our main critique is that of neo-liberalism capitalism and imperialism. This part of subaltern social history which inverts the Brahmanical and neoliberal theory of education articulates the program of people’s education. The plural and cosmopolitan understanding of Indian social history determined by the labour question shall emerge in this site.

(8)   This ontology of labour now takes a new twist where a new discipline is created: the discipline of “desireology”. Here education ceases to be obsessed with the mind as such. Instead it involves a paradigm shift where “ideas’ are displaced for “desires”. We cease to be involved with consciousness as such, but from now on education deals with the dialectic between labour, alienation and the deep unconscious. In this sense we follow Andre Breton’s First Manifesto of Surrealism which privileged the element of the fantastic in dreams. What Marx calls the estranged mind in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the phantasmagoria in Capital now become the main objects of educating desires, especially in the critique of neo-liberal capitalism and fascism.  The synthesis of science, philosophy and the arts is now realized as a dramatrugy—the struggle against fascism. It is thus on this site that a radical critique of fascism shall emerge. Indian fascism has two parts: one that is based on the hierarchical caste system and the other which emerges from industrial capitalism. Real education has to be anti-fascist and anti-fundamentalist. Here it must be said that fascists cannot think, nor can they philosophize. They can only create mass hysteria and then destroy human civilization. True and authentic education will directly have to confront fascism. It will soon become a life and death struggle, just as neighbouring countries in South and West Asia are battling their fundamentalists and fascists.

(9)   Based on the above 7 points the philosophy of emancipatory praxis follows. The praxis of free-universal education emanates from this struggle against neo-liberal capitalism and fascism. We move thus from theory to praxis. The poor and wretched masses of India are the main focus of this campaign.  Whilst removal of illiteracy is its main focus, the accompanying program of offering an alternative education to the mainstream reified types of schools is made here. We move then to forming educational collectives. Educational collectives de-school society from the outside. This “outside” remains literally “outside” the schools, colleges and universities at the first level, but consequently penetrates the formal educational systems, thus transforming them from hierarchical systems to systems of radical equality. It neither remains on the older spaces of civil society (meaning at the level of the NGOs now totally corrupted with international MNC donations attached inexorably with imperial interests) and the state (i.e. waiting for a so-called welfare or even the so-called socialist model of education, i.e. the education system that existed in the USSR). Instead educational collectives transcend both civil society and the state, and move in the New Site of the “commons”. Education, i.e. true and authentic education, can only be possible when the understanding of the commons and the consequent occupation of the commons is possible. The understanding and occupation of the commons is only possible when the Subaltern Indian Renaissance is understood, started and then completed. Consequently it is imperative to differentiate the “Renaissance from above” that included the Hindu reform movement (led by Rajaram Mohan Roy) and the “Renaissance from below”.

And that is why I insist that the “Renaissance from above” led to Indian liberalism. Now the fascists have come. It is time for the “Renaissance from below” to speak for itself.[ix] And once this “Renaissance from below” speaks for itself, it immediately relates itself to the most urgent issue of democratizing and socializing humanity. This “Renaissance from below” does not deal with the imaginary theme of “Western education” vs. “Eastern education”. It deals with the present era—the extreme brutality of capitalism in the era of late imperialism in permanent crisis. The conflict in this era is the conflict between fascism and socialism. The education of the masses shall thus be based on this conflict.

 



[i] Samir Amin, Capitalism in the Age of Globalization.  The Management of Contemporary Society (Delhi Madhyam Books, 1997), p.80.

[ii] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1982), p. 69.

[iii] Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘Preface’, Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the World (London: Penguin Books, 2001), p. 9.

[iv] See my ‘Towards a New Education Policy’, in Mainstream, VOL LII, No 44, October 25, 2014

[v]Karl Marx, op. cit, p. 99.

[vi] Ibid., p. 98. Also see Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), p. 27.

[vii] Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, p. 98

[viii] See my ‘Asiatic Mode of Production, Caste and the Indian Left’, in Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. XLIX, No. 19, May 10, 2014.

[ix] See my ‘Towards a New Education Policy’, in Mainstream. Also see my Why We Are Not Hindus (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2015).