Solidarity is not a dinner party

The fear of criticism breaking solidarity is an enveloped fear; well cushioned in caste hierarchies and privileges. It is an arm chair fear, resulting from the fear of doing the boring but radical work of patiently explaining, convincing and converging. It is a fear of one’s own fear of not belonging fully to the movement because once someone is fully immersed in the movement, solidarity is not an option, it is rather a vital necessity. You can’t break away easily, especially in fascist times, except for your own peril.

Let me state it at the very onset itself, only criticism can cement solidarity. Here we have to imagine solidarity not as something already existing out there. Such pre-existing solidarities are primordial and it’s better to break them. We can’t begin any fight for social transformation on pre-existing solidarities. The solidarities that matter are emergent solidarities, which are either in fragile existence or yet to be born types. It is only through criticism, we can get out of this primordial notion of strong pre-existing solidarity and go for emergent, minimal conceptions of weak solidarity. It is weak like seed that just now germinated; it may be weak but it has the immense potential to grow immensely strong.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]We cannot forever go on with the idea that ‘we will criticise all but only we can criticise ourselves’[/perfectpullquote]

Then this question of whose criticism? There the trouble starts: we have to get rid of the usual Leftist practice of self-criticism, not because of it is not necessarily good but simply because of it is not happening. Even if it is happening, not in enough quantity or quality.

We cannot forever go on with the idea that ‘we will criticise all but only we can criticise ourselves’. For the average Upper Caste Leftists, self-criticism means a personal monopoly on criticising oneself, i.e. not letting others to do the criticism. Even in the most relaxed cases, only People Like Us can criticise us. After all, being Upper Caste in India means you’re very unlikely to properly understand the functioning of privilege, forget questioning, even if you’re too willing to do it. It’s a structural problem, not individual inability. Therefore, it will be better the Upper Caste Leftists, if they are for true solidarity, open themselves for criticisms from the oppressed castes, with an understanding that it is for the their own good. Why do you want to take the arduous task of de-casteing and de-classing yourself all alone on your shoulders while others are out there to help you? If nothing else, this will at least help the Upper Caste comrades to learn the habit of listening to the oppressed.

If solidarity is emergent, I just wonder why the UC comrades worry so much about the collapse of solidarity on the face of slightest of criticism.

Are you not the great defenders of criticism as a way forward? Or are you saying our solidarity is so fragile that it can’t withstand any criticism?

By the way this is the same thing Sanghis say ‘Don’t criticise the nation or it will collapse’. To that any revolutionary will reply ‘if your nation is so weak, let it collapse. Don’t be afraid’. That’s the same thing we must say now ‘If your solidarity vanishes into thin air by the slightest of criticism, we must ruthlessly criticise it so that you can have some solidarity with substance’.

Or are you threatening that you will withhold your solidarity if there’re criticisms against you? In that case, screw your solidarity and be sure to be screwed by the fascists.

If you’re secretly relying on your secret networks as usual, be sure that your privileges will cease to help you by the lunchtime so don’t enjoy seeing the less privileged being taken for the breakfast.

[su_quote]When Armenian Genocide (Turks were massacring Armenian Christians) was happening, some Kurds, another minority like Armenians but was denied their distinct identity at the time and were considered a different kind of turks, had tempted to participate in it. When a Kurd insulted an Armenian priest taking advantage of the antagonism against Armenians and their vulnerability, the priest told the Kurdish man: we were breakfast for them, you will be the lunch.[/su_quote]

Mr. Chittibabu Padavala narrated this tragic story to remind Telugu journalists that they have nothing much to be happy about being the mercenaries of the regime against the HCU students.

The blackmailers of solidarity must understand that the Hindu fascists are now having the breakfast with little bit of lunch simultaneously. Be assured, the full lunch will not be much later. So, nothing to cheer on

How on earth we can have solidarity when you play Holi in JNU while your ‘comrades’ are bleeding in HCU? And it’s not about you playing (we’re not ascetic like fascists and our good old Indian Gandhian communists); it’s about you playing HOLI.
[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Your solidarity is not your charity; it is your helplessness[/perfectpullquote]

Oh! Yours is counter culture Holi, right? Yes, it is very much like Subaltern Studies, where no subalterns do the studying but always get studied.

At least, please take a realistic account of the balance of power; it is the UC comrades (except for the non-resident ones but their relatives are here too), more than anybody else, need the Bahujan support to save their own lives or freedom of expression (and what life for a UC comrade if not for talking?), not the other way around. It’s simple, you need Lalu more to save the Communist Parties than the other way.Dalit Pantheon

Your solidarity is not your charity; it is your helplessness. It is our helplessness too, we know very well. But don’t blackmail those who fight on the ground with a pure-ghee-notion of solidarity brought on janeu from devaloka.

Emergent solidarity is not like a shining mirror; it is rather like a broken mirror. A polished, shining mirror will only reflect the scorching desert sun in its entire burning heat, further blindening the plucked eye. It may be wholistic but it can reflect the desert sun only, nothing else and you end up seeing nothing. Same like our communists, they long for seeing the whole in its totality but end up not even seeing the parts, not even partially.

On the other, a broken mirror is an assemblage of mirror cracks, which stay together in a moth-eaten frame, with blood stains on the edges, but each reflecting different layers of light but at the same time pinching each other with sharpened edges, with a slight resonance too. This is a solidarity that hurts and by definition cannot be sound.

There is no solidarity without pain, and not at all without understanding pain too.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Emergent solidarity is not like a shining mirror; it is rather like a broken mirror[/perfectpullquote]

And don’t blame the victims for being the mirror cracks; it’s not they who broke the mirror first of all. From a Dalit Marxist standpoint, being a broken piece of mirror is no weakness at all. Rather, it has two advantages; to reflect the broken reality better and to be used as a sharp weapon too.

So, let’s go for a broken mirror kind of solidarity and stop complaining.

Finally, in war-like situations like these, the emerging solidarities will be war-like, where the solidarity is by definition minimal and constantly bargained based on actual power on the ground, which is again depended on who is doing the actual fighting. We must understand it is not because of any sudden-found-mutual love, there is this much solidarity seeking. It is the monstrosity of the enemy that unites us, not much of magnanimity. Like the way, Hitler united the USA and the USSR during World War II. It was not a principled unity but a practical one. We’re not very different from that. The Upper Caste comrades can’t have the luxury of being trusted easily, after all this history of letting down Dalits and Muslims consistently. Better don’t demand it but work for it. Building trust will not happen unless this country undergoes a deep reconciliation process along with adequate reparations for continuing historical injustice. Nothing of that sort has happened here.

At present, the truth is that we’re not even near to practical unity, except in a few places, that too occasionally. The UC comrades being touchy about Dalits not extending ready-made solidarity will not help anyone.

Better now work for practical unity, assuming the least and pretending the less and if the very process of building solidarity make us better beings, even better.

To know whether you’re ready for it, please do this mental test, just imagine renaming JNU as Bahujan University of Delhi. Anyway, Leftists don’t love Nehru much, right?



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Mathew Kuriakose Written by:

Mathew Kuriakose teaches politics and is currently based in Kolkata.


  1. gajendra singh bhiduri
    March 28, 2016

    I am a jat toh phir jaton waali UC buddhi hai bhai. JNU ho ya HCU . Simple questions instead of intellectual pontifications. Is JNU UC AND HCU LC ?How ? dono public university hain bhai – dono ki admission policies reservation ke mamle mein ek hain. JNu ke paas deprivation points bhi hain. So if the student composition is more or less the same , what makes one UC and the other LC ? Also , By all means rename JNU -maybe savitribhai phule university, but is there a proposal going around to make HCU atleast Ambedkar Central University ?
    Secondly, when JNU was fighting tense battles with public hostility, media, state , police , its students were being witch hunted , did it ask why is HCU not extending solidarity and why are people in HCU going about business as usual , with their little celebrations and joys ? Is it not understood that these little celebrations in tense times make people carry on with the bigger fights by gathering small comforts ? And is the bigger battle in HCU over rohith vemula to be trivialised to this extent now that at such moments , all people there can think about is why comrades in JNU ( which also faced a fraught month on tenterhooks till the momentary respite by release of its comrades just a few days ago ?) were celebratng holi ?
    Also did you do a count – how many UC and how many LC comrades played this holi in JNu ? Do you have a number , an estimate ? For you do know that UC comrades are a minority these days in teh student body as a whole?
    Nahin chahiye toh na lo bhai solidarity – chahe usme kitne dalit bahujan logon ki awaaz bhi ho , this is now just reduced to HCU vs JNU ofcourse . Some brownie points to be earned by prooving which university is superior in its politics , so be it . Last time i knew you couldnt scold people into solidarities to mend broken mirrors – the worse kind of self defeating politics ever played .

  2. Pranay
    March 28, 2016

    Wow ! This article is extra heavy!
    Though the various differences between solidarity and dinner parties were not really addressed!

  3. Ishan Anand
    March 28, 2016

    Extremely ill-timed, cynical, prejudice and without any constructive purpose. Demeans the struggle of students.

  4. gajendra singh bhiduri
    March 28, 2016

    Also one more impotant thing. All said and done, JNU engaged with its students being under attack with unprecedented solidarity – Umar was targetted for afzal guru death penalty protests and whether everybody agreed or not, they came behind him and his right to talk about it. HCU needs to do some introspection on why did rohith feel so alone in his struggle for something like protest over the memon death penalty ? where were those HCU solidarities and struggles then ?Thoda to self introspection hona chahiya naa, instead of wasting time over trivialities like which jnu student dared to play holi !

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