About “The University Worker”

1)   It is to be a monthly newspaper. Bilingual. English and Hindi.

2)   Why a paper?

  1. While capitalism remains a system based on the accumulation of unpaid labor, the manner of its functioning, the ways in which it accumulates, extracts unpaid labor, keep changing. With this change the ways in which it segments the working class. Segments are spatial, economic-financial, identity-based (gender, caste, region) etc. As a result, past knowledge is not sufficient to understand the present. Each new moment of capitalist development requires a new enquiry into its nature, so that new battle-plans can be drawn. Enquiry, hence a paper
  2. The working class organizes itself. What is usually called “consciousness,” is nothing more than a combination of knowledge of present conditions and past strategies. The paper, in addition to instituting an enquiry into present conditions, explores past scenes of battle, keeping alive its strategies by re-reading them in the context of the present. In this manner it reminds the worker of her/his own condition (the present) and her/his own activity (past struggles). So when a new moment of conflict arises, the working class is prepared, and the past is rallied for and in the present.

3)   Why the “university worker”?

  1. The university is a place of work; a fact usually unregistered.
  2. Those who work here are workers; a fact usually ignored.

4)   Non-teaching staff.

  1. A very large number of poorly paid peons, clerks, security guards, canteen workers etc. work in universities around the country – private or public. They give their lives to these institutions, which invariably do not offer their products to these workers or their children.
  2. Casualization is as much fact of life in the university as it is in the factory. Long hours, often little more than minimum wage, sometimes less, insecurity, inhuman working conditions.

5)   Teachers

  1. Teachers invest long hour of labor, at the university, and at home. Teaching, administrative duties, correction, invigilation and so on. Traditionally teachers have been a privileged segment of the working class. They have had better pay, better working hours, and overall less alienating jobs than other kinds of the workers. But at this point this is more a notion than reality. The largest segment of teachers is made of casual workers, working with no contract, not benefits, who are more often than not pushed to give many more hours than official papers would suggest. In central universities like Delhi University “adhoc” teachers still get “grade pay”, but in many state universities and private institutions they work for Rs. 10,000 and lower.
  2. The links between capitalism and the university become clearer by the day, with more and more courses designed keeping the market and the (segmented) labor market in mind. Public funding to universities is all but gone, and newer universities offer education at prices far beyond the means of most. The jargon of “culture”, “knowledge”, “creativity” can hardly hide the fact the university is little more than a space that produces disciplined, skilled workers, and participates in the reproduction of capitalism.

6)   Students

  1. Students usually think of the university in terms of personal aspiration. It helps them achieve goals: skills, livelihood, mobility and so on. Students or parents pay for education, and this payment hides from these payers/buyers the actual nature of this commodity. For a minute let us think about the university and about education not from the perspective of individual students but from that of the capitalist system. Why are there universities in capitalism?

i.     Workers are to be created, skills imparted

ii.     Indoctrination: the mythification of the system is of paramount importance. The student must be thankful to the system for this education. In the future the student must be thankful to her/his employer for giving her/him a job.

iii.     Schools and the university feed and reproduce a segment labor market. Poor students go to poorly funded government schools, richer students to private schools. What begins here continues into higher education. For instance both IITs and ITIs evidently provide technical education. But IITians are engineers and ITIans are technicians who can never be engineers. So then, the university reproduces capitalism; it is an essential part of capitalism. It is not as though a person ever really decides to be a student, same as a worker never really decides to be worker; in the final analysis this decision has always already been made. To be a worker, you also need to be a student. In effect, as a student you are already a worker, life is already being stolen away.

Only if the university can be thought of as place of work, and those who work here as workers, can the struggle in the university be envisaged as a moment of the struggle of the working class for society’s emancipation.

7)   The idea is to not be forced to react to each new move that the administration makes. Of course, it is important to respond. But more important is a sustained effort; the goal is to contribute to the self-organization, self-emancipation of the working class; specific events, and the need to react to them is only one aspect of this process. The collective dialogue that these events entail ought to be made a part of everyday life. That is the goal of this paper.

8)   Emphasis on detailed enquiry about the nature of the university as a workplace, a part of the social factory.

  1. Working conditions of teachers, researchers, students and karamcharis.
  2. The manner in which the work process is changing, and its implications, economic and political
  3. Given the nature of the work process and the relationship it institutes between those who work in the university, what would be/is the nature of political articulations.
  4. What happens to pedagogy under capitalism, under the current phase of capitalism? What is the role of pedagogy, of education under capitalism? How is the university worker to redefine this?
  5. In what ways does the working class in the university try to recompose itself? Do/can teachers, students, non-teaching university workers come together, destroying the forces that segment them into groups that usually interact antagonistically? Can they reconfigure the university, struggle against the capitalist university? How?

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