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Prof Jairus Banaji on Organized Violence, and Going Back to Feminism to Counter Fascist Tendencies

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11 March 2016|5:30 PM: Even the rains could not deter students and faculty members alike, from attending the lecture delivered by Prof Jairus Banaji at the Teach-in at the Freedom Square, which was delayed on account of the bad weather.

     Speaking on “The Political Culture of Fascism”, Prof Banaji provided an account of how a totalitarian system functions—it traces its foundation in the smallest unit of the society, the orthodox-patriarchal family, wherein the authority of the father-figure can be compared to the dictatorial regime of the Fascist state. “Traditional authoritarian families, patriarchal families” act as “a factory of reactionary ideology” and “the family as a battle-ground where the child will either survive as an independent individual later on in life or be permanently scarred by childhood, defeated on the battle-field of childhood, defeated in the family” explained Prof Banaji.

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     He then explained, “If this is the first sense in which the child confronts the state, in childhood if you cannot stand up for your mother, against your father, if you cannot resist the violence of your father there is a definite sense in which you have already lost the battle and when you grow up, you become an adult, you will not be able to survive battles of authority, you will worship your employer, you will worship the state, worship state authorities… and the mechanism involved is identification. Because it is a kind of compensation mechanism, you lost in childhood…”

     Thus, he urged the audience to think about the relation between character structures that are being moulded in a patriarchal family and Fascism. He therefore opined that feminism can play a major role in opposing patriarchy, and offset conditions that give rise to totalitarianism. He explained, “It is one of those bridges between feminism and the Left politics, to talk about family as the site of the first class struggle to defeat, the first battle with authority….” which makes it so important for us to go back to it.
Referring to Sartre, he explained the society can be divided into two groups- the organized and the unorganized. “Groups are the ones that rule… and who is ruled over? The people who are not in groups” explained Prof Banaji. The state, he maintained is “an ensemble of all the dominant groups in the society” is akin to a machine, with its institutions like the police, the bureaucracy, and the army emerging out of organized groups trying to dominate over those who are unorganized.

     Organized groups continuously condition the unorganized individuals absorbing “their energy, their labour, their imagination” till they are completely changed. Prof Banaji added that Sartre saw that the organized groups could do so by ‘creating’ a political climate which induces fear, paranoia and violence: “explosions of violence have nothing spontaneous about them, they are the work of organized groups working on seriality [the unorganized]”.

     His lecture summed up the dangerous cyclical nature of a political climate, created and organized to allow authoritarian control over the masses, and once in power, wielding its authority through the masses: “This Führer ideology…the mass leader someone with a strong commanding will, with a massive chest and so on and so forth…who is it that creates the Führer? Unfortunately, it is the people who support the Führer, the Führer will be nothing without those people… There is a resonance between the character structure of a certain type namely the authoritarian repressed character structure and the structure of the Führer. One creates the other, again there is a reversal of causality, a reversal of the direction in which the influence moves, again, it is the mass that comes first, mass culture that comes first, politics that comes second. Politics in some sense is a reflection of that mass culture.”
The lecture was followed by a brief address by Mr Pavan Verma, Rajya Sabha member from the Janta Dal.  Next a group of students came together to pledge support for nuclear disarmament and lit candles in memory of the victims of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

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     The evening ended with a short play based on the life and stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, performed by the Pandies Theatre Group and directed by Sanjay Kumar. The play highlighted instances of violence as a result of communalism, sectarianism, parochialism and intolerance that continue to haunt us even today.

The Informer Report.

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