Mines Minerals & RIGHTS: Challenging Single Issue Politics: Women's Movement & the Left
Below is an English translation of the Editorial of our monthly newspaper Khan Kaneej aur ADHIKAR (Mines Minerals & RIGHTS).March 09 issue. Many of our English speaking supporters and well-wishers often ask us how we are able to take the macro issues to the micro inorder to broaden the world view of our people here in the Adivasi homeland Jharkhand India. The original Hindi version is much more simpler. best xd
Challenging Single Issue Politics
Women's Movement & the Left
In the past decades India has seen thousands of people's movements fighting against all forms of oppression.Among them the most significant ones are the organisations of women to assert their rights. Along with the women's issue we also have the movements of the Dalit peoples, the Adivasis, on the environmental questions and the rights of the child.
That is the good news. The not so encouraging news is that none of our movements have been able to move to the next important political step. A movement is a mass of people continuously on the move. This brings in the much needed political growth as well as increase the power to attain our objectives. Just as when we all were children we began with small and then took big steps to which made us mature adults, so also we as people's movements have to move ahead step by step if we want to be effective. If we do not move from one step to the other then we seize to be a movement.
Many of our movements have developed a fair experience in raising our political consciousness. We have developed new forms of organisations and mobilising. These experiences are our biggest social, cultural and political wealth. Social wealth is not like the gold ornaments that are worn around our necks or what we lock up in our cupboard. Social wealth is like a small stream of water. If it has to become a river it has to be joined with other streams. If this stream does not move then it remains a nulla (gutter)of stinking water which eventually dries up.
Up to the late 1960's the Left or revolutionary forces all over the world were engaged in a one issue politics. That one issue was fighting against the war that the minority rich has been waging over the majority the working class. In the language of politics this fight is called class-struggle or class war. Since the rich were creating their wealth by robbing or exploiting the workers, the Left directed their entire politics on liberating the workers from the tyranny of the owners of the factories, industries, mines, etc. They thought that by organising the workers one day the workers would capture state power and build up a socialist state. This experiment has proved costly for history. The class that rules us does not only exploit us as workers. They exploit the gender divisions, the caste relations and the ethnic groups. Therefore any political activity to liberate our people should be an activity that liberates all our people not just one section of society.
This unfortunate mistake of the Left was realized only in the early 1960's. The Women within the trade unions were the first to challenge the wrong line of the Left. At that time as of now at the work places women were paid less than men for same jobs they did. The Women rebelled against this and it was only then that the Left political parties started to accept this demand. But the women did not stop with this demand. They started raising all issues where they face discrimination. From domestic violence, to the right for the control of their bodies and reproduction capacities, to the right to be in all the processes of decision making etc, they kept fighting.
By bring their rightful issues on the political agenda the women movement brought in a revolution in thinking of the Left forces. This had a global effect. All over the world women started organising emancipating organisations. From factory issues to domestic issues to self help groups women rose up to organise themselves on thousands of issues. This included writing their own history, writing their new experiences which contributed to a new political thinking. In the USA for example black women challenged the black movement as being male dominated. In Latin America Indigenous women started challenging Indigenous organisations too.
While in India the Women's movement has grown very fast and wide it has not produced any new thinking that can contribute to a new political thought. There are several reasons for this. There is a big gap between the urban movement and the rural movement. There is another big gap between the intellectuals and the activists. Due to this our movements fight for their own one issues. One stream does not merge with the other stream. Therefore the river cannot be formed. The other reason is related to the above and that is developing a political thought. As thinking and writing have been traditionally the monopoly of the elites especially male elites the activist does not have access to their writings. As the gap between the writers and the activist is big the writers write with no much knowledge of the ground realities. It is like writing a book on how to cook different biryanies but never entering a kitchen. The opposite to be also true those who are working in the kitchen do not get to read those lovely books on biryany. The other problem is that those who cook in the kitchen making Hyderabadi biryani never meet those who cook in the kitchen making Kabuli biryani
In other countries there is plenty of interaction between those who work in the kitchen and those who write books. Not only the cooks making different biryani interact often but also they interact with those working in kitchens making dosa and idli and other foods. In particular they also work with those who do not have enough food to cook or do not even have a house to have a kitchen.
What this means is that we in India are all like frogs in different wells. We know that there are other frogs in different wells but we do not hear their different songs. Working in isolation has become a methord for the mass movements in India. We have to break this bad tradition. We have to reach out and learn from one another. On the 8th of March is International Women's day it will be a good opportunity for activist to think about this. The Women's movement, the Dalit movement, the Adivasi movement must learn from one another they are sections of society that are directly linked to the springs of life. It is they who understand and feel the brunt of oppression. In the coming months due to the global economic crisis it is these groups who will face the most unemployment, who will have less and lesser to eat who will suffer early death or illness who will see their children die early. But if they can come together and struggle together it will also be a good opportunity to lessen this plight as well as become a powerful force in our ongoing revolution.