These are excerpts form three articles on (new) Social Movements.
There have been other national forums based upon the issues of forest-dwellers, right to food, right to information, construction labour, fishworkers, the mine-affected, etc. There is a need to unite all these forums for a concerted political action. There have been attempts by people's movements to influence and intervene in party and electoral politics.
New Social Movements by Nivedita Menon
A new kind of social and political action emerged in the 1980s, that we might call citizens initiatives. These non-funded and non-party forums came into being out of a sense of the inefficacy of mainstream political parties and their lack of concern regarding vital issues of democracy, freedom and civil rights.
Citizens initiatives have been more involved in a watchdog kind of activity and are not generally characterized by mass support. While some are small, self-sufficient groups of long standing, others are broad coalitions formed around specific issues, that bring together parties and trade unions of the far left, Gandhian, Dalit and feminist groups, some of which may be funded NGOs, as well as non-affiliated individuals.
Since the late 1980s, non-party movements and citizens initiatives have grown and functioned in a complicated relationship with NGOs. The apprehension of being driven by funder agendas, becoming depoliticized and being co-opted by funding has kept most movements and citizens initiatives consciously non-funded. At the same time many NGOs often provide movements with vital support in terms of infrastructure, campaigns and educational materials. Thus, while the peoples movements fight their battles in faraway rural or forest areas, with little access to the media, it is these NGOs that set up and house the various metropolitan support groups whose task it is to approach friendly and influential people in the media, bureaucracy and academia to advocate the cause of the movement concerned. Such NGOs have often also provided critical research inputs on technical details, environmental impact and other information required to conduct a credible campaign. A striking example of such a symbiosis is the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Coming now to the women's movement, it has functioned more or less in the form of citizens initiatives of the kind I have described, with occasional mass mobilization by political parties. In the 1980s, the autonomous women's movement emerged from the patriarchy and control of left-wing political parties. The first national-level autonomous women's conferences were thus attended by non-funded, non-party, self-defined feminist groups. Over the 1990s, very few of these survived as non-funded organizations, and the seventh conference in 2006, held in Kolkata, referred to above, was almost entirely attended by funded NGOs. It is also important to note that many non governmental organizations receive funding from the government for specific projects. Thus, the only groups that were finally excluded were non-funded left wing and radical women's organizations, which seemed to many feminists to be a strange paradox. Increasingly however, in the last few years, coalitions around issues such as sexual violence and the rights of LGBT people, include political parties of the Left. Feminists also perceive the close link between movements around livelihood and ecological sustainability, and the women's movement – Nalini Nayak, who works with fisher- peoples movements on these issues, terms ecological movements the resource base of our feminism.
It is the logic of the development of a mass movement in all its messiness that we should seek to understand, rather than look for that pure, 22-carat revolution where everything will proceed according to the programme laid down by the Left elite. From this perspective, nothing less than our maximum agenda is acceptable from SEZs to farmers suicides, from AFSPA in the Northeast to the murder of democracy in Kashmir. If you will not accept even one of these points, youre out – we will have nothing to do with you. It is not they who say if you are not with us you are against us, this arrogant divisive slogan has always been ours, on the Left.
Tahrir not twitterati: the future of middle-class movements in India, Siddharthya Swapan Roy
But then again to win the trust of the larger masses it must be willing to take note of the distresses which the new order has brought upon them: like the unbridled rise of corporates, their crass profiteering and the resulting loot of public resources; the unrelenting commodification of human beings and natural resources; the rapidly widening chasm between the rich and the poor; imperialism and its wars; the havoc which speculative markets wreak on food, fuel and other essential goods and services; and a myriad other issues that have cropped up in the post liberalisation era. Unless cognisance is taken of the truth that we live in a system that incentivises corruption and cronyism the dream of corruption free-India is foredoomed. The willingness to see the larger picture and bravely accept and contest the systemic issues of modern capitalism is inescapable.
Besides, a real movement must necessarily espouse real causes, giving up the luxury of being merely emotive and skimming the surface. It is not enough to vaguely posture against some faceless villain called ‘the corrupt politician’. If, for example, kickbacks taken by politicians when placing orders to private corporations irk the middle class, then they must be willing to ask if the role of private corporations in public matters needs to be reassessed. If profiteering by those in power is deemed unacceptable then there is a need to ask if a social order based solely on the pursuit of profits is sustainable? If the amassing of money by politicians in personal accounts is unacceptable, then it must be willing to take on a system that celebrates money at any cost and treats the fatness of a bank account as the sole yardstick of success.
The young members of the movement must steel themselves into becoming a worthy force in real politics because once in the electoral arena, tags like apolitical, neutral, young, even if genuine, are of little use. Without a concrete agenda which is sincere to its slogans and the will to follow through with it, the use of new technology will not maintain the ‘edge of the young’. Yes every new technology from emails to social networking must be used to the hilt. But the technologies by themselves are no guarantee of success. If one group can blog or tweet so can the other. The only thing that could set them apart is the message they convey. The young urban Indians who wield these technologies will have to decide what they choose to do with it. They must decide whether to go the glossy Twitterati way or take the road to Tahrir.