Oral history interview with Ranabir Samaddar

Ranabir Samaddar

Manjapra, Kris


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[1] KM: Test test test test test test test test test
[2] This is a Bengali oral history interview on January 5 2015, with professor Ranabir Sammaddar, in Saltlake and uhm.
[3] Profess Samaddar I'd like to begin as we begun all your oral histories in this collection, by asking you if you could share your date of birth,
[4] your place of birth, and then I have a follow up question from there.
[5] RS: date of birth, 28th of September 1949, place of birth New Delhi
[6] KM: uh could you tell us a little bit about uh your childhood um, and um, maybe give us a sense of your development, your intellectual
[7] uh social development leading into your school years - especially into your college years - whatever you'd like to share on that
[8] RS: you know I must I do (inaudible) formally, that this is really of no significance, I will tell you of course one or two things,
[9] I dont think this had much to do with whatever I did ... I was born in Delhi and uh my father came from the other side of Bengal
[10] (place) from (place) he was involved in the Nationalist movement in the Great India Movement in Bihar he never went back to Bangladesh
[11] he went back once to (place) the property but there was no one else in the family. My mother came from a Calcutta family and uh
[12] she was involved in communist activities in her youth, and uh, the only thing that I, I mean apart from the personal interesting electors
[13] which I'm quite sure are with everyone, ... no consequence... but I think the only you know point that might be of interest,
[14] but again that I have been a completely, in some sense, an urban man. We had no propery, my father had no connection with villages after 47
[15] he left his village, at a early age, got educated in Bihar. Almost uh self education he was, (foreign?) again, he lived in dire circumstances,
[16] on my mothers sides also so maybe you had that something (inaudible) we do not have any elective in the villages we do not have any property
[17] never a part of anything and, since we were in Delhi, so we were relatively free from the incursions of relatives, who were all from calcultta
[18] we saw a pretty kind of grew up on our own (?), (inaudible) cost positive?) surrounding
[19] KM: What part of Delhi was it?
[20] RS: uh it was initially called Market of Bengal, before that (foreign?) Bengal Market, and then the housing quarters my father was in
[21] but he took pains to educate us in a Bengali school, so we had to commute a lot in order to go to that school and therefrore we
[22] always lived this dual world the world of the benglai language (inaudible) et cetera at school. But in our colony and our friends they were Tamils(?)
[23] So uh initially I remember we had this (anvil delegation???) to Calcutta, we didn't want to come, but our parents were forcing us.
[24] Calcutta was as strange place. But, that is it.
[25] KM: And uh was there, was there a um was there a period in your childhood when you had uh a sense, do you remember having a sense of
[26] what you think you would, what your contribution would be or how you might think of your role or how you would invest your energy, or
[27] did that come in your studies or did that come later on. Howe did you kind of find your personality, your intellecutal personality?
[28] RS: I don't know, I mean really as a school chil. But my parents were very idealist, so one was a communist the other was a fellow
[29] traveler so we were used to be taken to IPTA meetings and conferences, you know, all very well known communists would sometimes used
[30] to visit our house. We used to hear a lot of, you know, nationalist stories kind of the staple cultural diet on which Bengali middle classes brought up.
[31] So that had profoundly less remark on whatever I did later, but you know it was intitally. One of the most embarassing questions put
[32] to us was, it is equally embrassing now, what will you do when you grow up (laughs). Earn a lot of money. And Of course there's
[33] competition in the school, you want to be a good student.
[34] KM: so in terms of going into, from leaving school, and going into uh, what did you do after? What was your next step, in terms of education?
[35] Well I joined Presidency College for two reasons: One my father thought Presidency College was the best college in India and I had
[36] done relatively well in the central board of secondary education, it was almost a prodigy, who should be invested in Delhi. So
[37] initially he toyed with the idea of whether to send me to (College Name) or to Presidency, and (inaudible) so I came to Calcutta
[38] KM: When was that?
[39] RS: 64
[40] And backed off as we boarded in a hostel, the Presidency hostel (???)
[41] KM: So that was the, the Eaton Hostel?
[42] RS: Eaton Hostel.
[43] KM: And what was uh (interruption, laughter). Do you have any uh, anything that you'd like to share about your Presidency time that
[44] you think was noteworthy or that you remember as standing out in your mind in terms of either frienships that you had or people that
[45] you talked about, ideas, mentors that you may have had or uh events - political events that you were involved in that you feel is of
[46] some importance perhaps to ... your development.
[47] RS: Did you read some of my writings on this period?
[48] KM: Not yet, so.
[49] RS: You see, I do not want to tell because it really might look like braggadacion (inaudbile) pardon me. I have written not in, you
[50] know, I wrote something which set off a debate on the nautre of the studne movenemt in the 60's it was a long series of articles,
[51] political debates around that, that was conducted by this Bengali periodical called Onshtu (?)
[52] KM: Called, repeat it again?
[53] RS: Onshtu, and I think the series was called Bangal(?) (inaudible) there were various student and youth movements of Bengal. I wrote
[54] a book in 2002, it's called "The Biography of the Indian Nation", there is the second chapter called I think "Promises of the
[55] where the (read at length on ???). But the Presidency college also wrote out to uh (NAME) I think one in the location of 25 [55]
[56] years of the department of political science, the other was I think 100 years or 150 years in the college (inaudible) but also
[57] realities. Those are, you know, a few of them covering (inaudible) and one of them in (inaudible). And the newspapers also come out.
[58] So I think the long and short of it was that you know, Hostel created a kind of life, and mid sixties was most important in that
[59] sense to our movements periods and the life of the country. Uh there was a um anti tram fare rise movement, food movement, the idea
[60] of the Presidency collge movement was that the Presidency Collge student's movement has to forge links with the poorest groups,
[61] workers, peasants etc. So that was the call of the 60's. So there is a famous presidency college student and anyone who works on
[62] student movements would like to have met. Still Bengali newspapers refer to that.
[63] I was uh, thrown out of the college - not alone there were a few others and so (inaudible) but these things happen. And these were
[64] all political things also. In those days it was before the birth of Nesambari, but Nesambari (inaudible) soon joined and became a
[65] part of the radical movement of the time. So I joined political activity like (NAME) I mean nothing, as I said, special about (NAME)
[66] but if you want to know the details I'll request you to go to the writings of particularly what happened in jails and what happened
[67] etc. detailed accounts written by me - on me, written by others.
[68] KM: Mhm, I'll look into that. One question in which may be in these writings, so feel free to direct me there, has to do with,
[69] especially mentor figures, who um, gave you a sense that uh, this path you were taking, which eventually was a path that led to your
[70] being expelled, was a valid path, or valorous path, or the proper path to take in the times, would you point to, would you like to point?
[71] SR: No intellectual.
[72] KM: No intellectual?
[73] SR: no, no.
[74] KM: to be sure there was no?
[75] SR: No, they were all political leaders. we were very in that sense we were political partners, I do not see myself as kind of figure
[76] in cultural - even though people refer to that, but I was, still remain, in the same position. I do not have much to much to date
[77] from Calcutta. But what happened is that there were certain communist, as I told you from my mother and my father, and my uncles, my
[78] elders, the heroism of the communist, the nationalist martyrs, anti-colonial resistance,
[79] all these things were kind of folklore in our family it was extremely atheist family. And I told were deepy Harpan(?). So free from
[80] the usual Bengali-Hindu uhh, I didn't even know the meaning of "caste"! Until I passed - if someone had asked me "what is caste". So
[81] my innocence and ignorance wboth were unfeathered. Some ignorance but also innocence, both. So the inspriation was politcal the
[82] inspiration was (foreign?) the inspiration of course, Fanon, Che, Mao, Lenin.
[83] KM: You were reading these (inaudible)?
[84] RS: Oh I read, we all had to read, we had study classes, we had political classes, party leaders used to come after the college
[85] hours, our study times. Everybody was immersed in reading - even though we managed to pass out (inaudible). We were politically
[86] educated. So our critique and our irreverence to the established cultural figures - we didn't have to culitvate that it came very naturally.
[87] Almost bordering on the wrong side, you might say, that too much of that was bad. But on the whole uh, I mean of course, you learned
[88] social science from your teachers, so I'm not saying I didn't learn anything, so please don't, you know, take me wrong but that
[89] learning had... I don't think they had much to do with my own world view with the way I treat - view society with the way I read
[90] literature, with the way I write, with the way I analyze, I think. Half of it you might say self cultivated, self acquired, and I'm
[91] proud of that fact. That I, I'm not much elated to be an intellectual, and I think it is overrated I think uh the gloss is because
[92] of a global thing, but at the same time I think that there is so much in it that one has to go back again and again to see how you
[93] know the - the popular movements and uh the radical culture how they interface but how their trajectories might take different paths to get their mutual part?
[94] KM: Um a question about hte spacial context these reading groups where were they taking place, where did you go were they taking in [95] the hostel did you travel somewehre uh, in order to be reading Che and Mao?
[96] BS: All kinds of place: first of all after the college was over we used to have, you will get it all there, but after the college was
[97] over we would have these study classes maybe once or twice a week, people from outside would come party leaders and others at the
[98] same time we had the duty that if we are learning than we must teach others also so we kind of go to the factores, to the slums to
[99] take the literacy classes, introducing political texts, there was always you know discussion centers it was a very vibrant time,
[100] it was kind of a permanent workshop of ideas and we were all in there since equal. We were brought up on an extremely egaliterain,
[101] I miss that world as I have nothing it has nothing much to do with the hierarchy of culture I don't feel here at home I think I was
[102] much at home at that time and the sense of you know the equality the sense that, that hm that one experienced in terms of
[103] altercation, argument, discusssion it was the - and therefore your friends would be suggesting have you read this book have you read
[104]- so I wasn't trained very much in a particular disicipline though I ... had a formal discipline but I don't think I know much of
[105] that (laughter). I think if I have learned something it is much more from the eclectic and Eastern driven, agenda drive, theme
[106] drive, time driven, and looking driven, uhm studies and pursuits of thinking that I have (inaudible) that I don't think I have anything to do with that.
[107]KM: Hm I'm interested in the uh uh, in some of these key texts or key authors that you mention which are third world which are texts I mean these are texts that came to define the ...
[108] BS: Not only third world texts we read Lenin anonymously, anonymously. Uh Mao Sedong was of course there, I mean unfortunately he
[109] didn't write much, or I don't know, but Mao's texts were there. But we read Lenin huge, in my house I had, due to my family, a huge
[110] archive of all literature: 30's, 40's, women's movement, (inaudible) movement, it goes around pamphelts, movement literature... novels!
[111] KM: This is your families house, in Delhi?
[112] SB: Yah, and I used to go to the national, you know, national books library, it was very close to our college, it was just one
[113] minute walk, across the street. I didn't have much money, you know, in those days my father was angry that I was joining the
[114] movement and all that, and he used to blame my mother, that is because of (foreign?) hahaha.
[115] So but uhm, so we used to buy all kinds of whatever there was there and thing were cheap in, you know, the National Book Agency, it
[116] was a very famous book store, communist book store, by one publishing house - there were three or four where you could get these
[117] things. You know, Feathers Driving(??), Prince from Monthly Review, Broad Sheet I used to buy, it was very costly for us, but I used
[118] to buy Broad Sheet, brought out by Jone Robinson. Also the Seven Seas publicaiton from east Europe and all kinds of progressive
[119] literature (inaudible) so it was nothing very Indian. I mean it was not only with me, with everyone, but that's why I say that this
[120] post-colononial thing, to me is a kind of an intellectual case or a framework that has been put later.
[121] KM: Because your imagination, your reference points, were not located necessarily in South Asia, they were in fact, spread out?
[122] RS: One! And because the postulate always is that it's a different trajectory than the global left one. Which is true partly but I dont think, you know, the case is so much, as is
[123] made up. But it all depends in how one (inaudible) maybe, but I had friends who did that. And the (jay?) laws, that I still remember, one of the essential things that any literate
[124] person would have to do, you had to take literacy classes. The medical students, comrades who joined our groups, our parties, and all that. Had to always, you know, this was
[125] cumpolsory, that this was a skill that you had. So we do not want you to turn into a full scale political worker we want you to remain with your politics intact. That you do some
[126] other activsm as well. It was cumpolsory.
[127] KM: Um you, what happens after, just locating ourselves back in time, you are expelled from college.
[128] RS: '67 I am expelled from presidency college, this is a massive movement, as I said, this is one of the high marks of the 1966 - there is food movement. We are jailed, we are thrown out of college,
[129] there is anti-expulsion student movement throughout Bengal. Then the unite from government comes to pary. Allows us to sit in the exam, but not in the College, but
[130] elsewhere. We join universty - some of us including me, we throw away our studies and say "this is bourgeois education", and we go to villages. I came back, you know, 5, 6 years
[131] later, and then did my masters privately at Calcutta Unviersity, had this facility at that time, without going so I was - at this is one of the reasons, I did my post graduation
[132] without even buying anything. I had to borrow a few books and, do whatever I can. And mercifully I passed. Same as with my phD, I had interest in something with labor technology and
[133] I thought I would write a thesis on that. And people knew of my name as a political worker, writer et cetera. And there was one kind professor, who said "you can do under me, I do
[134] not know much, but I respect you.
[135] KM: Who was that?
[136] RS: His name was (unknown)
[137] KM: And he was where?
[138] RS: In Calcutta University !
[139] KM: Ah, Calcutta University.
[140] RS: So I did my PhD after 20 years, or maybe 15 years, after passing of my mother. So I had to take up small jobs here and there.
[141] KM: When did you begin the, your doctorate, your - and when did you finish it?
[142] RS: Began it I think it 85, or 86, formally, and finished it in 1989. But I got my degree maybe two years later, because you know there was some foriegn - you know, Calcutta always
[143] had this, still has this weird - one of the three examiners has to be from outside the country. Why? I don't know. But any case, and again the choice of my thesis had little to do
[144] with foreigners I was involved in trade unionism so I, something interest me, so I thought that's the way to go.
[145] KM: And uhm, coming back to the uh 70's and coming back to - one thing you've mentioned that you're an urban man you said, but then you spent a significant amount of your time in the
[146] country side, but you also had an imagination that was international. Can you reflect a little bit on how those three piceces fit togehter, what it is like, what it was like to be,
[147] have completely urban frameworks, a framework, in terms of your previous life moving into the country side, with also this imagination which is located in all kinds of places reading
[148] Lenin and Fanon, Mao and here you are, in a village context which has a very diffent horizon to it, and very different kind of material concerns than you previously knew.
[149] RS: Not really - I mean politics was the unifying thing. I mean of course in the city - you have a greater felicity in your style as well as facilities that you have, you can express
[150] yourself in different modes. But when you go to the village, you also become an educator, but you are continously told you have to learn from the peasants, you know. So the Maoist
[151] ... so we had to be constantly kind of upbraided by your colleagues if we were not modest enough. You can't afford to arragont, yet each and every movment you have to understand
[152] that this person has to understand you. So this was also there for a struggle for self mastery in that sense. Struggle to combine your intellectual world, your uh - the world in which you were there for politics,
[153] and therefore the world of the, you know, the, the criticism and self criticism in which you were always involved. This is at times,
[154] it will be nerve wrecking, because you are continously struggling within yourself to de-class - it's not an easy thing.
[155] KM: And how does one, develop that, or uh, continue that disciple. It must be, and it is a discpline, and it's a very difficult form of self criticism
[156] RS: But at the same time it is made easy because of collective work. The friendship, that you have. It depends on, you see for us -
[157] you are speaking of group, but the group that I am speaking of is the group, we had struggled together in residency college in
[158] Bengal, student movement, in youth movement, we had joined union activities, we had set fire to buses, we had uh, you know gone to
[159] police lock up together, we were bitten together, we sang togther, so it's kind of a communsit collectivitiy that therefore - and
[160] in that collectivity the individuals- too much indivuality is never appreciated or never encouraged - for good or bad thats the way you live.
[161] So uh as I said, therefore the rough side was this. But the pleasanter part was you're all doing it together, even in jail, you
[162] know. So uh, so what happens is that thefeore when you come out of it, or you remain in it, this... and it happened with the - our
[163] revolution is in the nationalist times even though it wasn't commnuist but it was in many ways a very anti-colonial colective
[164] thinking that proceeded communist thinking in india. And the joy of belonging to a collective is evident from the writings of that
[165] time. But as a I said it is also accompanied by its own pitfalls its own, you know, how do you put it, roughness (crude-ties?) all
[166] that. In the villages also it was the same - but there was, while there was anxiety and all that, but there was also, you know, a
[167] certain sense of heroism, I don't know how you put it, not individual heroism but a sense of adventure and accomplishment in what
[168] you were doing as a group and uh what is uh debalitating is if you're left out of the group if the group doesn't recognize you
[169] or if you had have done something that he group doesn't pardon you for, or you think that you have not been given your due by the
[170] group that is the world to which you belong. And I think that that this world is neither strictly ours nor theirs, you know. You
[171] might find that kind of collectivies within a rural group, you might find the same kind of colelctive thing within urban workers.
[172] KM: and your, when did you know it was, the transition out had come, the time for you to transition out from a certain way of life to a different way of life
[173] RS: I didn't plan it when I came out the jail the whole party was over - it had been riveted with factions
[174] KM: When was that, what year was that?
[175] RS: It was long, it started in 70, 71 - but I was in jail so. But you know all I am saying is that it didn't happen and I slowly. I
[176] could see that probably I was not up to it, but even though I tried to continue union, but I could see it it also that this was not doing
[177] - and the fact that he party was getting fragmented, and I could not feel at home with either of the two, also made me fall back on
[178] the only capital that I have, which is a bit of knowledge, bit of, you know reading and writing. So I think it's like that, I mean
[179] if I were a, you know, an electrical engineer or an elecrician with that skill, I would have done that. So I don't put too much in
[180] store in terms of the transition that I did that - and part of it happened naturally and part it was the only thing I could do. I
[181] was working with a school, at the same time doing union, doing other kinds of physical activities to keep my self afloat, uh taking
[182] literacy classes, doing private tuition so that I could earn moeny. And so it slowly happened that I started, or uh, reached where I
[183] am today. But uh I don't, you know, see all these things as any kind of misadventure any kind of Western thing. I think they are
[184] enormously enriching, and whatever I am I think it is because of that.
[185] KM: And what is your view I mean you spoke about, I think before we started recording, the way in which the intellectual rises to
[186] the top - becomes an important class in society at a particular point, often when, in some ways a certain way a hegemony is being
[187] worked out. This group becomes the elaborator of that hegemony, but there are other kinds of intellectuals, including organic
[188] intellectuals, who play a different role but also have to maintain a certain self discipline who have to know to step aside so that
[189] the actual group can find its day in the sun or its time - its voice to speak. So if that is the case then how, since you have
[190] entered a world - a professional world of intellectuals, how do you maintain that discpline? Or how do you think of your position
[191] within both the Kolkatta scene but then aslo the international intellectual scene in a way that ensures that, you know, one is
[192] working as an organic intellectual - or is that the way that you would see what your life history is, what your life experiences allows you to do?
[193] RS: You see I think it is a very good question becase, would you like some more tea?
[194] KM: I'm good, thank you.
[195] RS: I think, I mean I, I know what organic intellectual means but ... the way it is, and I have great respect for what Gramsci
[196] wanted to argue and all that, given the climate that he was in. But (foreign?) you see what - on one had, the organic intellectual
[197] world, the phrase is slightly misleading. I don't want to go into that debate, as I said, I have enourmous respect for that phrase
[198] and I know what he wanted to say, and I cannot simply say it does not make sense, no - it does make sense, one organic intellectual
[199] is worth hundred intellectuals. That is very clear. On the other hand, the organic intellectual - this phrase - is misleading
[200] because while it throws light on the need to have organic contact, with the material world, with the classes that you wnat to speak for, or want to be a part of.
[201] At the same time, it also ... doesn't ... recognize, maybe I shouldn't say so, but I'm just thinking aloud, that the pre-Gramscian
[202] history of intellectuals involving themselves in workers movement - this question never arose. You know one of the things that Marx
[203] and Engels say again and again, and again coming back to the left is this, and I'm telling it not because of any political
[204] discussion, but how I see it in order to tell you that - don't take it as a self defnse - that philsophers are by and large
[205] compromised with the ruling order, that's how they saw German philosophy they say German philosophy is over, German thinking is
[206] over. Why? Because philsophers have lost the quest for truth, they have compromised with the German order and therefore they cannot
[207] turn philosophy into an unbiased, scientific, spiritual inquiry. Philosophy is over because they have lost the capacity to stand
[208] against the world of, you know, oppression, whatever. And they thought that at one level political economy is going to take the place of philosophy,
[209] it at least explains scientifically what is happening to a certain extent. So they study political economy and then they wrote a
[210] critique of that - which is known as Kapital. And then they thoughts - they in fact say that for the workers science will take the
[211] place of philosophy. Now if you see Lenin and other revolutionaries in history, again they are not very worried about organic
[212] intellectuals they are drawing inspiration from, as I say, Shenoshevsky, ect. all those great figures of the time. Lenin writes this
[213] briliant analysis of Tolstoy, Tosltoy's dual character etc. And they are great figures for whom we learn - but you were party
[214] militant you serve in the way you can. And therefore the problem is seeing from a different, the problem is seeing from the angle of
[215] the workers, the angle of the workers who saying is respulsive even though he was immersed in chinese all that, but they had
[216] intellectuals also. Again Mao Zedong's idea was that take from them what is to be taken, reject what you don't think is appropriate.
[217] And the intellectual doesn't have to be a always member of the party but the fact is whether it is contributing. I don't know
[218] whether you are getting my point. So but with Gramsci and with the Western European world things become different only from, as I
[219] say, from the last century. Where the intellectual world, becomes a world unto itself as Gramsci rightly explains the reasons for
[220] that. Now therefore I never see myself as an organic intellectual I do not have the quality, I don't think I have done anything to
[221] which I can claim that I am organic. Uh, an organic intellectual in some way also, you're organic to court, you are organic to a
[222] party. Akbar's intellectuals were organic to his culture but that's how the idea of being organic to some, Dalit intellectuals are
[223] organic intellectuals (someone) a very big example. So maybe on one level the explaination is that organic intellectuals are either
[224] intellectuals who come from the lower classes and work for the lower class, think for the lower classes.
[225] Or upper caste intellectuals who have been, in the Marxist language, declassed themselves - have done that. On the other hand, I try
[226] to maintain the kind of criticality that one needs in order to see through the world and constantly decide what I think to be
[227] politically a pro-working class, a pro anti-colonial or a pro-democratic or a pro-peasant. So I think the more important question
[228] would be the kind of critique that you develop and how does that critique differentiate yourself from the given critical theories I
[229] don't know whether I am getting - thus so at one level, let us say, the critique the Frankfrut school developed, now Foucault is
[230] said to have remarked that he was innocent and ignorant, that he did not read Frankfurt school before he wrote history of madness,
[231] or madness of history, some people say "Thank God that he didn't read, and therefore he was fresh and he would write in a way from a
[232] political point of view" but Foucault himself says that part of it therefore - there was no need to write, if he had read dialectics of enlightment.
[233] I don't know. But I am only saying that the critique must be politically informed, it must not be a philosophers game, it must not
[234] be a language game - I know poeple will always say, well language is politics, and I am quite well versed in all these explanations
[235] but it has to be informed with the material world - with the class standpoint everyone takes *knock* - YES?
[237](RS speaking with someone else in foreign language)
[239] KM: So I think I have one final, wrap up question. Which uh interests me increasingly, you know, you mentioned Fanon, and one of the
[240] things that is so striking about reading thinkers like Fanon, especially Wretched of the Earth, also Mao, Che is,
[241] and so I'm thinking of Fanon specifically, is this insistence that in a system of violence there is a required use, a required
[242] resort to counter-violence, that counter-violence is a necessity for resistence within a system of atmospheric violence or structual
[243] violence. Reform, critique, is part of it, but when Fanon is writing Wretched of the Earth, he actually means violnece - he means
[244] actual counter-violence to oppose the way the system works. Now, how have you, how has your thinking on counter-violence developed
[245] over time? And how do you think of the role of violence, of counter-violence specifically, in this struggle to stay close to
[246] materiality? Is it a requirement then to somehow have a different understanding of counter-violence if the intellectual is to remain close to the material struggle as opposed to operating in a kind of...
[247] RS: I think that's a very good question, it's a very important question, but can I then loop you with one article
[248] KM: Yes, yes, please yes.
[249] RS: Uh, just one minute. What I should do is .. again uh this is .. Kris. yea. Now, you know two, three journals brought out - I was
[250] invited by UNESCO as a philsophers day, I think it was the 20th of November, if not 20 something, so I was invited there once, and
[251] they had uh that year uh something was going with Fanon, Fanon was the theme of that. So uh, they brought it out (inaudible).
[252] *clicking* Fanon. I'm sorry, it's a very violent critique of another *laughter*
[253] KM: And probably also therefore a critique of the exclusive reading of the early Fanon period
[254] RS: Yes you will find everything, by now you understand my position so, as I said, I am sorry you will have to, you know,
[255] (inaudible). This was published later on as part of my book called "Emergence of the political subject" (inaudible) came out in
[256] UNESCO (inaudible) he or she. And now I think you see uh I am still - I vacillate on this point, or maybe, vacillation might not be the right thing.
[257] In general, I have not disapproved of the kind of, as you say, counter-violence or that happens, in general I've not disapproved.
[258] Partly because who am I to approve or disapprove, partly that is the reason, it's no moral reason, who am I to take a self-righteous
[259] position about this is good this is bad etc etc. Partly because I understand, you know, what is happening, how it is happening, and
[260] this part of - also because intellectuals do not have to be necessarily against violence, why should we be against violence? In as
[261] much as why should, maybe, ephemeral violence if there are intellectuals that take a reason few. If there are political leaders,
[262] revolutionary leaders they will take a calculative. You see my point what I am trying to tell. So that is my general attitude, on
[263] the other hand I also know that indiscriminate use of violence, and the idea, which Fanon of course I don't think ever tried to
[264] tell, that violence is a cleansing thing, you know, through violence you can organize. Which is always featured in communist and uh militant nationalist thinking.
[265] So you throw a bomb thereby you create your own group - through media, through publicity, through police attack, through uh you know
[266] developing sympathy etc. But this has enourmous pitfalls, how does one graduate from therefore an instinctive deployment of
[267] violence, to a more calculated use? And a more defensive use? Is the important thing - in other words, do you see violence as, kind
[268] of, an existent part of your life, which is there, as I say. But on the other hand you see it as only one of the many tools in your
[269] armory of ... your armory, your lexicon of politics. And as an intellectual, therefore, since you, you can always therefore - you
[270] have also the luxury, partly, to take a backseat and judge, because it is not directly affecting you. But if you are in the midst of
[271] that fire, which is around you, engulfs you, then either you say there is nothing else left for me than to fight back and therefore
[272] to use violence - but that violence never wins the day until and unless you have made it a part of your broad revolutionary strategy.
[273] Than you know that you have to have a calculation of that you have to be rational about it, etc. And the other caution of course is
[274] that, if you are fighting for the people, than of course it is your duty to see that the consequences of your own work, either they
[275] are accepted of their own choice, or you leave no other option to them but to suffer from the consequences that you have created.
[276] And... do you have, therefore, you might use the word ethical, you know, the ethical point from which you can distinguish yourself
[277] from the bourgeoisie and say that the bourgeois always uses the language of "collateral damage" can you use that, can you afford to
[278] use that, can you think of that? I mean at one level war leaves you no other option but to think that at times there is collateral
[279] damage, but I think the important question to be: it involves the people. So it's not that it's collateral damage and other
[280] bourgeois institution is engulfed, in fact. That you wanted to create - destroy soldier A but soldier B is also destroyed - it's not that - you are in the process also
[281] perhaps causing loss of lives and you are thinking this is part of war. That I don't think is permissible. But on the other hand as
[282] I've said, that, you know it brings me back, it takes me back, I am an old person - that this is a problem of leadership, a problem
[283] of strategy, a problem of revolutionary parties, but it is also an intellectual problem so the distinct. It's not that the strategic
[284] leaders are anti-intellectual, they have to be much more intellectual than, we are, in terms of deciding what they do or if they
[285] come to power - the kind of public policies they will take, each and every moment they will have to decide.
[286] KM: Last, last question - optimism, pessimism, agnosticism. Um, your sense now when you look at the state of society, the state of
[287] this globalized world we live in, the increasing - in some ways one might see a story of the increasing ways in which social -
[288] material reality is being mystified and in which the suffering of vast groups of pepole are made palatable in everyday life.
[289] It's clear that, you know, problems are worsening, do you have a sense that clarity of vision is also increasing - you mentioned "I
[290] would like to see clearly as an intellectual, I would like to see the world clearly" do you think we're making - being able to see
[291] more clearly or that we will be in that position as time goes on, or do you think, in what this mystic sense, that our being, that
[292] our vision is increasingly being viled or obscured and pacificed and depoliticized, or do you feel agnostic to that question?
[293] RS: I think both are true, both are true. Meaning the culture industry, the education industry, the knowledge industry - their main
[294] task is in fact mystifyig the way it is organized, and increasingly, neoliberal ideas, kind of pleasure of the self, you know,
[295] cultivation of oneself, exotic knowlegdge, exotic pursuits and all that. They are not exacly like the 19th centry sky diver who
[296] thought about the sky, no. So we are not thinking of a style who lived in a simple life (inaudible) that's all I wanted to say.
[297] So on one hand that mystification not only will continue but it will increase enormously and the mark of neoliberal uhh cultivation
[298] of self is that it tells even the poorest that you too can enjoy this world. So it's not the old liberal division between the
[299] capable and the not - the unable or you know, those who are eduated and those - so it's not just, I think the neoliberal world wants
[300] to reach everybody - everyone has the right to dream of the world that the TV, you know, caters to you - so in that sense it's much
[301] more democrative this whole delusional world so its infinite. But on the other hand the kind of, after 1991, in some sense the world
[302] should have been much more reactionary, that the, you know: Rwanda, Bosnian Wars, uhh what happend in India in terms of the complete
[303] change in economic policies, the Gulf war, destruction of Iraq, I could go on and on. But strangely it is not, you also have
[304] different kinds of experiments partly failing partly they are succeeding - Latin America is an interesting example, I'm not saying their is a right path but experiments are going on.
[305] I don't think China is a lost case, I've never said, experiments are good - I think in India again with the loss of prestige that
[306] socialism had in India, as in any poor country socialism had enormous attraction - Soviet Union, China they had great attraction for
[307] common people . So world should have been much more pessimistic place, a place of dismay loss of all hope and all that - but I don't
[308] think that's there. I think the critique of neoliberal ideology, and neoliberal outlook, and neoliberal policies is developing,
[309] fantastically developing. So it's not for them to tailor themselves to Marxism it's for the communist to find out what is new in
[400] this world and to take it and I think it is there that the post-colonial thing is important because the post-colonial is the, is
[401] situated in the belly of the ugly beast so it's not a question of provisionalizing Europe it is a question of universalizing what
[402] has been termed as post colonial the demonized global, how does one escape the neoliberal destiny or how does one escape the whole trap of ideology of development,
[403] how does one escape the economic rigbarrel of stagnation in productivity and many things and on the other hand astounding financial
[404] leaps in terms of speculation and all other kinds of things. How does one escape, you know, the kind of well in which you have been
[405] thrown into and get into the broader world and make yourself and the cosmopolitan much more fluid, in other words, much more
[406] concrete universals have to be born rather than the particularities- the particularities were always there we haven't created them,
[407] they were always there from day one in the world. The challenge is what is the specific generality that we produce out of it so I
[408] think that is where the postcolonial challenge is very good it is aboslutely directly to the post - to the world, the entire world
[409] that this capitalism is really marked with postcolonial features the Americans are owned by China not the other way around, so what
[410] do we do? The great powers rescued by Korean investment, Chinese investment. The question of war, date, reconstruction of economy affects Greece affects Bulkans affects East Europe affects Italy,
[411] it is affecting Spain the whole reconstructing of Europe is depending on the whole restructuring of data, the whole restructuring of
[412] data is depenidng on? Whether you can end European Union at least in the present structure that it is in what you do with Europe as
[413] final neoliberal kind of thing that is there backed by IMF and others that is the post colonial challenge so that national question
[414] is kind of, which is why I am in favor, of retaining the term but in a very critical sense as in the sense of use it critically, use
[415] it with an extremly specific objective in in mind that the postcolonial critique of capitalism remains very valid, I think I've spoken enough.
[416] KM: Thank you.