Sunday, 19 November 2017

Stalinists Resort to Reactionary Campaign on Language

- Rajesh Tyagi and Rajinder Kumar/ 18.11.2017

India has been home to a variety of reactionary and sectarian movements based on identities that relate to caste, religion, language etc.

Recent in the chain is the campaign by ‘Students for Society’ (SFS) in Punjab University, appealing to state and local authorities, to impart prominence to Punjabi language on the campus as against English and Hindi.

SFS is a nationally oriented student organization influenced by the program and politics of Stalin and Mao.  

In the not so distant past, a similar diehard linguistic campaign to reinforce Punjabi language as against Hindi and English was launched by the communal reactionary Khalistani movement. SFS is echoing the same while basing itself upon similar intransigent sentiments of the backward mass.

This campaign, in essence is an appeal to spurn English and Hindi in favour of local language, Punjabi.

The impulse for the campaign comes from the regressive sentiment that envisages an aversion to internationalism, convergence of peoples and cultures and in opposition to it calls for adherence to regionalism.

The world had continued to globalize in last few decades like never before. Following the rapid integration of the economic life on the planet, immense cultural convergence has taken the ground.

This integration and convergence would have been impossible without a global language, the language of business and economy. The Imperial centers of the West, that supplied fuel to the economic life of the East, have supplied the culture and language also. Alongside the Jeans, Pubs and Harvest combines, comes English too.

Emergence of an international language, English, is the biggest cultural conquest of mankind in the recent past.

In the first instance, it would appear, as if the question of language is the simple question of means of interaction and communication among humans. It is not simply that but far beyond it!

Immense importance of the language as geo-political phenomenon, consists in its social and historical role that it had played in modern history, being an instrument of speech, in binding the diverse communities together, the bond from which as of late had emerged the concept of nation and nationalism. Nationalities had different languages. Language is the oldest and most important marker of nationality.

This is just an example among many to underscore the significance of the question of language that represents something far higher in human culture as a whole than mere means of personal or social interaction.

The question of language is the question of culture as a whole, of human civilization in general and also the question of their historical evolution.

Like a person’s cultural level can be judged from the language he speaks, the cultural level of a society is directly relatable to riches of its language.

Language is one of the most significant aspect and achievement of human culture so far.
Origins of different languages can be traced back to the onset of civilization in different parts of the globe. Human civilization is as old as the language. Recorded history of civilization and hence of culture is far younger than the language itself as obviously the recorded history is the record in some or the other language. Language is thus far older than its own recorded history.

Linguists agree that language has a long driven, uneven and diverse evolution and evolutionary patterns the world over. World is full of innumerable languages that have born and grown for a fairly long period in history, rather in major part of it, in complete isolation from each other. Only of late in history, they started to interact with each other, influenced, dominated and enriched each other in that process.

As capitalism drew the hitherto segregated world communities together, into the vortex of an economic life that continues to unify on an international scale, the foundation for evolution of a language of the languages, an international language, the language of international business, was laid forthwith. English occupied this place of honor.

Without this foundation in the earnest, no global integration could have been possible and consequently no cultural progress could have taken place beyond the arena of narrow and limited regional, national frontiers, where it was bound to smother to saturation in no time.

The vast diversities and astronomical differences existing today between the levels and tempos of cultural development, that includes economic development, primarily between the two hemispheres on the earth, and then the continents, regions, nations etc. comprise the backdrop in which the question of language unfolds itself, today. From this uneven and diverse evolution of the culture and language, arises the critical question of language, as it stands today.

The cultural and lingual integration of the world is taking place today within the structures of capitalism, more specifically imperialism. The intruding imperialism into the peripheries from the centre, has created necessary conditions for globalization through forced integration of the world into one market, not through military means so much as through the economic tools.

This world market, to flourish, however, must have a corresponding world culture and a world language. To create it, capitalism is drawing the vast masses of the diverse, heterogeneous communities together. In this process of ‘drawing up’, the higher, more developed civilization, the civilization of the centre, maintains its domination over that of the peripheries. This means imposition of not only economic but also of the cultural life, to which language is integral. The world periphery, by the very logic of development is supplied and burdened with the language spoken by the imperialist centre- that is, English! Imperialism knew no other way, except force, imposition and domination, to do this. However, the method does not vitiate the importance of the role.

Alongside globalisation of economic forces and under their pressure, world continues to integrate culturally too.

This integration however is hampered and mutilated by the division of the world into national states. This artificial partition of the globe, not only obstructs the free movement of the people through police means, but restricts such movement and wider interaction among people for economic constraints too. This retardation of the natural development of international culture, results in its mutilation generating sectarianism of all kinds. This sectarianism is then promoted by all reactionary, nationally oriented forces inside these cocoons of national states.

We won’t dwell further upon the historic evolution of language, nor would we venture into attempts to trace its trajectory or to bring up the role that language has played in development of the culture and civilization as a whole. Leaving this arduous job for linguist experts, we have rather restricted ourselves to the exposition of only the political essence of the disputes that have emerged between us and the sages of localism, regionalism and national chauvinism.

These disputes, in turn, have their roots in the contradiction between globally integrating economic life on the one hand and the national state and nationally oriented forces within it, on the other.  

While the economic forces,integrating globally, propel the cultural life and the language to go global alongside them, the forces of regression based on nationalism and regionalism, obstruct the path of this integration. They appeal to the most backward and reactionary sentiments to oppose the global march of economic and cultural life, in the name of defence and promotion of national, indigenous culture, language, mother-tongue.

Stalinists are supporters of national-state and nationalism and their whole perspective and politics is nationally driven. Their narrow orientation is the basis of their retrograde attitude on the question of language too. These sages of nationalism and regionalism are hostile to internationalism upon which is based the program of permanent revolution and the October Victory.   

In this and this context only, we must try to discern and understand the meaning of their reactionary appeals against the cultural and lingual convergence of the world. 

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