Saturday, 30 July 2016

Spivak's Mahashweta & bengollywogshite

Bhadralok Bengal- the Hindu bildungsburgertum of Bengal- has a long and proud tradition of sociopathic sittlichkeit and lickspittle logorrhea going hand in hand with  shameless self-aggrandisement and parodic scholarship.

In earlier Centuries, this essentially immigrant class had prospered through comprador cunning and opportunistic venality. However, during the course of the Nineteenth Century, they found themselves attacked for their mendacity and lack of manliness by the very people they most despised- viz. the leaders of their own community- who hoped to earn a pat on the back from their Masters by curbing their own kula's incontinent kulinism in espousing Credentialised shite.

The result was that the ambitious young Bengali felt compelled; not just to lie and cheat and run away when threatened; he- or, increasingly, she- felt obliged to lie and cheat and then run away from his or her own class after fucking them over in an irreparable manner.

Thus, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Young Bengal rallied senselessly against the salutary partition of their Golden Motherland, thus ensuring that the Muslim majority would eventually  ethnically cleanse them from a large portion of it once they got the chance, with the result that Bengal, and Calcutta, would decline continually thereafter.

The post Independence generation, many now penniless refugees, faced a truly grim existential dilemma. How could they exceed the deeds of those forebears who had so thoroughly undone their own life-chances? What mischief of their own devising could over-top that of Partition?

Niradh Chaudhri hit upon one method. He wrote a long book explaining why Bengalis were utterly shite and ended by appealing to America and Europe or any other coalition of proper White people to come back and save the Hindu from himself. Later he ran away to England.

Ranajit Guha, founder of the Subaltern School of shite historiography, actually preceded him by a few years in bolting for Britain. Guha's way of fucking up his own people was by pretending that tribal immigrants into India from the North East were actually autochthones who alone could make a genuine revolutionary history which however was better, or at least more safely, studied from abroad.

Charu Mazumdar and Kanu Sanyal- low I.Q Trade Unionists in the Tea Gardens- gave color to this fantasy by completely failing to extort money from the wealthy Marwari Estate owners- who would simply have shelled out a couple of bucks to get them bumped off- thus proving their Bengali lack of manliness- choosing instead to get some Santal immigrants to kill one or two Bengali interlopers or Rajbhanshi autochthones under the pretense that this was a peasant uprising in Naxalbari.
Sanyal and Mazumdar were hoping to suck up to Chairman Mao and get money from him for handing over Indian territory.
Other Bengalis, keen to jump on a bandwagon so destructive of their own class and country, naturally piled mendacity on mendacity, and- more particularly because of their lovable habit of running away- created a full fledged moral panic about some supposed revolutionary insurrection among the agricultural classes.
However, the real importance of Naxalbari was that a Police Inspector was killed and so Jyoti Basu- who had been pro-Mao a couple of years back- ordered heavy handed reprisals and thus put himself on track to become the longest serving Chief Minister in Indian History.
I should explain, Basu was a genuine Communist but a gentlemanly one- i.e. killing Communists was his duty but he was only comfortable if the State apparatus was doing the heavy lifting- & it was the myth of Naxalbari which permitted him to re-purpose the Indian State to this great end. Why? How? The answer is that violence between autochthones and immigrants could be handled by the District Administration with a dollop of fiscal subsidiarity without any necessity for the mass hunting down of Communists- which is only a theological duty for genuine Marxists. However, by painting ethnic bloodletting as an  imaginary 'structural' conflict affecting the entire agricultural sector, Naxalbari gave a plausible Technocratic cover for what was actually a wholly sectarian practice for which Secular India would have refused to foot the bill.

Some other parts of India cottoned on to this wonderful discovery and thus State support for the traditional rural pastime of hacking people to death was able to flourish. Naturally, this meant that the police had to to keep arresting and killing people because the funds for that sort of thing had already been allotted and it would be a shame to have to hand that money back.
This is not to say that there was no endogenous violence in rural areas. Of course there was.  Rural shitholes remain rural shitholes because the people are murderous imbeciles. If the Rule of Law gains salience, Development occurs and the area stops being a rural shithole. That's Marxism 101.

Anyway, the whole Naxalbari thing was just a cunning Bengali ploy to pull the wool over Marwari tax-payer's eyes.
As a matter of practical politics, it was clear to the administration that Naxalbari was quite peaceful. The Santhals turned against the immigrant Bengali agitators and made a separate peace with the Rajbhansis- in the process turning their backs on Jangal Santhal who lost the elections and died a forgotten and penniless alcoholic. Still, the pretence had to be kept up that some 'structural' threat still obtained because Commies have to kill Commies otherwise they're not better than wretched Humanists.
I should mention, that landowning Bhadrolok also had an obligation to shed the blood of their Uncles,  but that's actually part of Bharatiya Samskriti and also the reason Iyers own no land- or at least none they tell their relatives about.
By contrast with Land, which is an object of mimetic desire- Paideia, Education, Moral Upliftment, Literary Culture and Aesthetic Refinement are non-rival 'Public Goods' and so, in a sense, Students represent the true Wealth potential of the Nation because killing the little shits when they turn Naxal just feels soooo damn good.

Any road, that's the story of Naxalbari. Some of the agitators were killed by the Police- though this would have happened anyway, without any excess burden on the Tax-payer,  by means of the usual frictions involved in Tiebout sorting factionalist- id est genuine Communist- politics in a segmentary society. Meanwhile, other nutjobs were rehabilitated so as to split the anti-incumbency vote in particular Assembly seats- most took to petty crime or the NGO racket or else turned respectable wife-beaters or blackmailing journalists and so on.

Thus, despite all the hype, it appeared that the post-independence generation hadn't succeeded in fucking over Bengal as thoroughly as their predecessors. At least in Calcutta, by the mid Seventies, this was the writing on the wall for Mahasweta Devi. Unlike Gayatri Spivak, whose English was American Academic level barbarous, Devi couldn't borrow money to study in America and become a Professor by playing the Red Indian card. Her lack of talent prevented her from commodifying herself for a Global market. She was stuck teaching English in India to people who had no great interest in it anyway. By contrast, Spivak was able to fuck up Eng Lit for everybody- which was no big loss to anyone except the Bengali bildungsburgertum whose collective rationality has pretty closely tracked that of Literary English's own Enlightenment project, which is why Bengali literature is now worse shite than even Hindi or Tamil shite.

Spivak, of course, was Mahasweta's biggest promoter on the Global Comp Lit Ponzi scheme. In her cacophonously catachrestic introduction to Devi's 'Draupati', Spivak says- 'In the spring of 1967, there was a successful peasant rebellion in the Naxalbari area of the northern part of West Bengal.'

Yeah right! It was so successful that no land changed hands at all. Fifty percent remained utterly uncontested in the vice like grip of the Tea Estates and the Government. Some Santals and Bengali refugees- migrants to the area- may have gained or lost a little land from Scheduled Caste autochthones but there was no 'class character' to the conflict- unless nephews getting their Uncles hacked to death counts as Class War.

What did obtain, was the killing of a police officer which was massively avenged.

Spivak was Bengali, but in 1981, not yet a native informant. She wrote- 'According to Marcus Franda, "unlike most other areas of West Bengal, where peasant movements are led almost solely by middle-class leadership from Calcutta, Naxalbari has spawned an indigenous agrarian reform leadership led by the lower classes" including tribal cultivators.'

This was nonsense but Spivak had been holed up in America and there was no internet so she can't be blamed for naively believing Franda whose book was topical and had a nice dust-jacket but was little better than jobbing hack-work.

However, Spivak must have known she was indulging in pure fantasy when she depicted elderly Indian police officers of the period as being readers of Sartre and Marcuse.

The truth about senior Bengali I.P.S officers is that they are mad dogs and actually bite people. Mamta Bannerjee's top cop had once bitten her- that's not why she later got rid of him because, clearly, all Bengali Police Commissioners aren't just barking but biting mad.
As a Hungrealist poet- or drunken shithead- wrote at the time-

Unable to even curate the ruins it couldn't create
Let Bengal more rabidly the British berate
Tho' our Didi's own Top Cop once bit her
Not bitter, she has cop killers to liberate

But this is to get ahead of the story.  Spivak had left India in the early Sixties- before I.P.S officers began biting people.
Moreover, she came from a middle class family- i.e. one where everybody pretended to be smarter and better read than they actually were.
 She knew that this quotation from Franda was hilarious - "in much the same manner as many American college presidents have described the protest of American students, Indian political and social leaders have explained the Naxalites (supporters of Naxalbari) by referring to their sense of alienation and to the influence of writers like Marcuse and Sartre which has seemingly dominated the minds of young people throughout the world in the 1960s."
Spivak knew that Bengalis don't actually read and digest Sartre or Marcuse anymore than she herself really reads and digests anything at all and, moreover, they don't actually have minds- just an instinct for mendacious self-promotion.
Nevertheless she writes- 'It is against such recuperations that I would submit what I have called the theme of class deconstruction with reference to the young gentlemen revolutionaries in "Draupadi." Senanayak remains fixed within his class origins, which are similar to those of the gentlemen revolutionaries. Correspondingly, he is contained and judged fully within Mahasveta's story; by contrast, the gentlemen revolutionaries remain latent, underground. Even their leader's voice is only heard formulaically within Draupadi's solitude. I should like to think that it is because they are so persistently engaged in undoing class containment and the opposition between reading (book learning) and doing- rather than keeping the two aesthetically forever separate- that they inhabit a world whose authority and outline no text-including Mahasveta's- can encompass.'

Wow! You can take the gushing Convent School girl out of Calcutta but you can't shake her belief in dreamy 'gentlemen revolutionaries' who 'undo class containment' as easily as a brassiere.

Spivak's Mahashweta is actually a Barbara Cartland celebrating a new type of Bhadralok hero- one who has reconciled Bhratrhari and Bolshevism in an erotic but unheard paraavaak.

Interestingly, this hero is also capable of reversing the big Bhadralok blunder with respect to Partition.
Spivak writes- 'In 1971, at a crucial moment in the (Bangladeshi) struggle, the armed forces of the government of India were deployed, seemingly because there were alliances between the Naxalites of West Bengal and the freedom fighters of East Bengal (now Bangladesh).
Spivak writes 'seemingly' because so it seemed to some stupid Leftist who wrote-
"If a guerrilla style insurgency had persisted, these forces would undoubtedly have come to dominate the politics of the movement. It was this trend that the Indian authorities were determined to preempt by intervention."
Did Spivak really believe this nonsense? Suppose it was 'undoubted' that the Mukhti Bahini would turn Maoist, the Indian and Pakistani military would have collaborated to crush it. After all, they worked together to crush the Maoist nutters in Sri Lanka.
The fact is, our diplomats did feed stories of that sort to placate our Arab friends and the Washington hawks. Come to think of it the louche Shasti Brata actually got paid a few bucks to write a book making that sort of claim.
Perhaps, Spivak in advancing this absurd argument, was showing her true colors as a closet Hindutvadi.

'Taking advantage of the general atmosphere of jubilation at the defeat of West Pakistan, India's "principal national rival in South Asia" (this was also the first time India had "won a war" in its millennial history), the Indian prime minister was able to crack down with exceptional severity on the Naxalites, destroying the rebellious sections of the rural population, most significantly the tribals, as well.'
Ah! There you see the Hindutvadi cloven hoof! India had won plenty of wars in the previous thousand years- but under Muslim Kings or Christian Viceroys.
But then, Muslims aren't real Indians- are they?
You see, real Indians are Aryan invaders- not Turks- thus once they beat some Muslims they get the courage to crack down on the autochthones who aren't 'real' Indians because they aren't Aryan.
No doubt, the occulted 'gentleman revolutionaries' who have achieved paraavaak, could unleash an upashruti such that 'the rebellious section of the rural population'- i.e. the Shudras and Tribals- aren't mercilessly suppressed.
But they have chosen not to which is just as well because otherwise Spivak couldn't gush on about Mahashweta as the Barbara Cartland of those great Bengali heroes.

' The year 1971 is thus a point of reference in Senanayak's career. This is the setting of "Draupadi." The story is a moment caught between two deconstructive formulas: on the one hand, a law that is fabricated with a view to its own transgression, on the other, the undoing of the binary opposition between the intellectual and the rural struggles. In order to grasp the minutiae of their relationship and involvement, one must enter a historical micrology that no foreword can provide.'

So let's not enter that micrology shall we? It sounds a bit like an urethra rather than a vagina in any case.
What should we do instead?
I know!
Let's look at a contemporary academic eulogizing Spivak's Mahashweta. If what follows is good 'Lit Crit' then Spivak has failed in her Bengali Bhadralok World Historical Mission to fuck up its own foundational Bildung irreparably. If, on the other hand, what follows is decently written then Spivak is a fraud and probably actually Nepali or Gujerati or something.

'I believe in anger, in justified violence, and so peel the mask off the face of India which is projected by the government, to expose its naked brutality.. (Devi, x)'

 The much acclaimed works of Bengali writer cum activist, Mahasweta Devi, are the sites of dissent, resistance and protest by the gendered subalterns against the hegemonic dominations of patriarchy and the establishment. Her writings at once both debunk and contravene the gender and cultural norms of the society. Fuelling political activism at the grass-root level, she foregrounds the exploitative social system by highlighting the injustices done to the tribals like Santhals, Lodhas, Mundas and Shabars, who are called upon to work for the country and the state but who are in turn never taken care off. Her women characters like Draupadi, Shanichari, Jashoda and Dhouli are rebels who refuse to be dis-possessed, dis-empowered and displaced despite of their endless sufferings at the hands of the social and political masters. Devi, the crusader of the rights of Dalit, evocatively presents ‘politics of domination, caste oppression, material violence, inhuman torture, repressive disclosure, overarching hegemony, historical marginalization and engineered exclusion; and liberates conventional epistemological blind’.(Nair 480) The present paper attempts to analyze Mahasweta Devi’s Draupadi as a meta-narrative that subverts hegemonic patriarchal discourses by presenting counter-narrative that challenges official stand of silence and exclusion of tribals and more so the gendered subaltern. 

 Draupadi, published in Mahasweta Devi’s collection of short stories titled Agnigarbh (1978) and translated by Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak in her collection titled Breast Stories (2010), is an extraordinary and rare document of violence on and resistance by a poor, illiterate tribal woman who, in her ultimate denial to clothe herself, not only exposes the ugly and horrifying face of political repressive forces including government, bureaucrats, feudal masters and the state sponsored delinquents, but also challenges the might of callous post-colonial state embodied in the figure of Senanayak. The play documents the economic, political, social and sexual oppression of the dalit women in tribal areas who suffer from triple marginalization in terms of caste, class and gender. It is about the 1967 peasant rebellion in the naxalbari area of West Bengal by the landless peasants and the itinerant farm workers against the unofficial state-feudal nexus. The rage of the suffering tribals is provoked by SurjaSahu, the feudal kingpin, who refuses to share with the tribals – the proverbial others – the ‘unlimited’ water of the two tube wells which have been dug up in connivance with and approval of the state forces. Anguished tribals, disillusioned with twenty years’ fake independence and frustrated with feudal-state nexus, join the naxalite group being headed by Arijit and perpetrate revenge killing on SurjaSahu and his sons. In order to crack down the rebellion and respond to the naxalite revenge killing the government forces launch ‘Operation Jharkhani’, initially under the charge of Arjan Singh and later under Senanayak. The mission is meant to destroy the rebellious sections, majorly tribals. During one of the operations, three villages are cordoned off and the innocent villagers are gunned down. During the infamous crack-down, Dopdi and her husband, Dulna, lie flat on the ground, faking dead. They later flee the village to lead the life of fugitives. The couple maneuvers to escape the brutal forces by using the guerilla warfare – considered as the most detestable and abhorring style of fighting with primitive weapons such as hatchets and scythes, bows and arrows. Dedicating themselves absolutely to the cause of the naxalite movement the couple works in different guises at different villages in the Jharkhani belt foregoing their dreams of a family and stable life for the larger goal of the movement which is to achieve social utopia and economic freedom. Proudly announcing themselves as soldiers, the couple –Dulna and Dopdi Majhen – effectively describes all details about their targets and also informs their comrades about the movement of the army. The victimization of such a couple thus highlights the predicament of the tribals who are entangled between the pulls of ‘..subsistence living and the appropriatory logic of feudalistic modernist patriarchal state and its allied system’.(Dwivedi 243) Operation Jharkhani gains momentum under ...
Nuff said.
You get the gist.
Spivak's Mahashweta does too rank with Niradh & Guha & Sen & every other bengollywogshite.

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