Between the Lines
Danger of Fascism in India
Governments at the centre or the state are often characterized as "fascist". Such characterizations create confusion. First of all, any oppressive government is often called "fascist" in a simplistic manner. Secondly, attempts are sometimes made, without much prior thought, to build anti-fascist fronts with forces that are reactionary to the core and are themselves prone to rule in a fascistic manner. Now-a- days, a new term has become more fashionable—"religious fascism". Without any political, economic or ideological analysis, any rule suppressing or oppressing minority religious communities is characterized as religious fascist. A simple arithmetic deduction is made in such cases. Hitler suppressed the religious minorities- the Jews. Hitler was a fascist. These people suppress religious minorities, so they are fascists, as if fascism or anti-fascism can be characterized in religious or secular terms.
Actually, such simplistic characterizations without in-depth analysis are made with an eye to building up electoral alliances with all sorts of dubious forces. The CPI(M) started this in order to extend its alliance so as to include even the Congress, at least to support the Congress at the centre. Many communist revolutionaries also followed them without thinking of the logical upshot of such formulations. Hence they, although not ready to extend the front like the CPI(M), talked much about the CPI(M). So, before undertaking an analysis of the character of the present Indian government, let us first delve into the origin and development of what is called 'fascism'.
Fascism is a specific phenomenon that grew and developed in a concrete historical situation, and had its own ideological, political and economic basis. It gives rise also to a concomitant culture.
The term 'fascism' is derived from the Latin word "fasces", which meant a bundle of rods tied around an axe, and was a symbol of authority of civic magistrates in ancient Rome. Mussolini adopted this symbol for his party in order to establish its authority over the people.
But how did Mussolini appear in the political arena of Italy and Europe, or for that matter, the whole of the world? Benito Mussolini, an intelligent young man, joined the Socialist Party of Italy in the first decade of the twentieth century. Soon he became the editor of AVANTI, the organ of the Socialist Party, and worked there from 1912 to 1914. Then he developed differences with the party on the question of all-out support to the war efforts of the Italian government. He left the party and joined the army. Returning from the war after a shameful defeat and the imposition of the ignominious Versailles Treaty, Mussolini formed a party. A section of the monopoly bourgeoisie of Italy, whose ambitions had been shattered by the defeat in the War also wanted a party that could mobilize the people behind the chauvinistic call to take up arms. In 1919, he built his fascist party with its organ II Popolo d'ltalia [The People of Italy]. According to Mussolini, fascism was a" movement to strike against the backwardness of the right and the destructiveness of the left." The manifesto of Italian Fasci of Combat was published ou June 6, 1919 in II Popolo d'Italia. The basic call was to regain the lost pride of Italy robbed by the Versailles Treaty. It was not a surprise that the party gained support of a large section of the people. On the basis of that support, the ideology of fascism was put forward as an all-pervasive authority of the state and unquestionable loyalty to the leader, and the compulsion of all citizens to bow down to the authority of the state, or, else to be suppressed. The state was to carry out such reforms as would enable industry to develop. Special attention was given to enterprises like FIAT, which wanted to expand its markets beyond the frontiers of Italy. Thus a chauvinistic war-mongering state serving the most aggressive sections of the capitalist class was developed by the fascists. Reforms were carried out in all walks of life, education and culture Above all, the people were made to understand that they were to obey unquestioningly the leader II Duce. To ensure this obedience, a private army named Black Shirts was raised by the fascists in addition to the armed forces of the state. Mussolini started a campaign from Turin and marched towards Rome in order to break a strike called by the socialists throughout Italy. This act made Mussolini the real representative of the most dangerous sections of the monopoly capitalists of Italy. At the same time, the call for the so-called 'development' of the economy and the assurance of solving the problem of unemployment rallied a large section of the unemployed youth behind Mussolini.
When Mussolini was establishing fascism in Italy, Adlof Hitler was gathering strength in the German province of Bavaria. Within a short period, "Hitler formed the "National Socialistesche Duetsche. Arbeiter Partei (National Socialist German Workers' Party), in short the Nazi Party. Its politics and ideology was the same as those of Mussolini's Fascist Party with the addition of a feeling of extreme hatred towards the Jews. Hitler's Nazism was thus the German form of Italy's Fascism. Since during the World War II, the German forces played the most aggressive role in Europe, people all over the world connect Hitler with fascism. The idea of Herenvolk (master race), which was meant to imply that the German people were real Aryans, and were destined to rule the world, gave rise to a fanatic chauvinism based on racism. Such an ideology could overwhelm the people when working class ideology and the working class leadership failed to organize the toiling masses in a catastrophic situation. At the same time, a section developed amongst the bourgeoisie, which was ready to trample underfoot all notions of bourgeois democracy.
In his 'Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress on Work of the Central Committee of the CPSU(B)", Stalin characterized fascism as follows: "It is not surprising that fascism has now become a fashionable commodity among war-mongering bourgeois politicians. I am not referring to fascism in general, but, primarily, to the fascism of the German type, which is wrongly called national-socialism-wrongly because the most searching examination will fail to reveal even an atom of socialism in it. " In this connection the victory of fascism in Germany must be regarded not only as a symptom of the weakness of the working class and a result of betrayals of the working class by Social-Democracy, which paved the way for fascism; it must also be regarded as a sign of the weakness of the bourgeoisie, a sign that the bourgeoisie is no longer able to rule by the old methods of parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy, and as a consequence, is compelled in its home policy to resort to terrorist methods of rule—as a sign that it is no longer able to find a way out of the present situation on the basis of a peaceful foreign policy, and as a consequence, is compelled to resort to a policy of war." (J V Stalin, Problems of Leninism, Beijing. 1976, p 682).
To be precise, fascism was the ideological, political, economic means of the most aggressive section of the monopoly bourgeoisie to overcome the crisis they faced. Inside the country it meant absolute power of a leader to rule in an authoritarian and terrorist manner, and as to foreign policy, it meant redivision of the world through war.
Nearer home the possibility of establishment of fascism with the assumption of power, or for that matter absolute power at the centre, by Narendra Modi is increasingly gaining currency. There is no simple affirmative or negative answer to this question. India is faced with a grave situation. The enthusiasm with which most members of the big bourgeoisie welcomed the "globalization" process is steadily on the wane. Industries as a whole are facing a critical situation. The crisis is graver in the manufacturing sector. Inflation and unemployment are continually on the rise. Even the damned statistics show that 30% of the population are living below the poverty line. It means that about 360 millions of Indians are so pauperized that it is an enigma how they continue to survive. Deaths due to hunger have formed a regular news item. All the prescriptions of the troika for globalization-IMF, World Bank and WTO-have failed to revamp the economy. Yet the troika goes on harping for opening up the economy more and more to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Foreign Institutional Investment (FII). But faced with the worldwide crisis, foreign investors are reluctant to invest more in the Indian economy and are putting newer and newer conditions. They want developed infrastructure, i.e. developed transport and communication facilities, uninterrupted supply of energy, developed ports and airports etc, etc, peaceful working conditions, meaning amendment of labour laws (introduction of 'hire and fire) along with easy and cheap access to the resources available in the country.
Almost all of the parliamentary parties turned out to be votaries of globalization in some way or other. From the Congress to the BJP, the Trinamul Congress to the CPI (M)—all have gone on singing songs of 'development" through greater capital investment and wherever they have been in power, competing with one another to grant more and more concessions. The so-called left parties, notwithstanding mild whispers of 'there is alternative' and 'globalization with a human face', loudly proclaimed, wherever they were in power, that at this juncture 'development' meant more investment by big corporate capital, Indian or foreign, and thus they betrayed the toiling masses. The communist revolutionaries constitute the only exception, but even when the working class is faced with such a crisis, they have gone on splitting themselves on flimsy grounds. Actually the stage is set for fascism to grow and develop in the Indian polity.
But there is an instinctive impediment to the growth of fascism in India. In this country, the big bourgeoisie are not fully independent monopoly capitalists. They have to depend on foreign multinationals or foreign financial institutions for existence, growth and development. At present a number of imperialist powers are in the race for greater shares of the market. Though efforts are there to establish unitary hegemony of a single power tending to turn the country into a neo-colony, one of the basic features of globalization, i.e. the opening up of the economy poses some difficulties to such efforts.
To establish full-fledged fascism, the Indian ruling classes, particularly the more aggressive sections of them, would either have to shrug off all dependence on imperialist capital, which is more or less impossible, or have to come under the unitary hegemony of a single power, which is also a difficult proposition. But one section of the ruling classes wants the state to be all-powerful, and for that matter to be run by a powerful leader with an iron hand. Especially those members of the big bourgeoisie, who have been blessed with a meteoric rise during the period after the introduction of the New Economic Policy, wants such a rule to be established, and it is clear that this rule will develop a fascism of the Indian type.
The recent parliamentary polls have witnessed how the basic formula of a fascist state, a strong state and a strong party with a strong leader, has been propagated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It should not surprise anybody. The real players behind the scene the RSS, have a long history of advocacy of fascism.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar said, 'Nazism proved undeniably the saviour of Germany under the circumstances Germany was placed in." Unlike Savarkar, Golwalkar, the father theoretician of the RSS, did not, however, put on any tactical mask in order to bat for fascism. He was loud and clear, " German race pride has now become, a topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the race and the culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has shown how well-nigh impossible for races and cultures, having differences going to the roots, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for the people in Hindusthan (India) to learn and profit by. He went on, "There are only two countries open to foreign elements, either to merge themselves and adopt the national race, or live at its mercy so long as the national race allows them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race."
The Hindutva agenda most suited for fascism was this, and in Narendra Modi, it found a leader, who had acquired the image of the hero of Hindu chauvinism, and who had the determination and cunning to suppress, even decimate, not only the minorities, but also all sorts of opposition including those within his own party. But the problem was whether the people of the country would accept him.
Here also one can see how aptly the BJP has learnt from the German fascists. Goebbles, the propagandist extraordinary for the fascists, taught that if the same lie were preached continuously, a time would come when a large section of the people would come to believe it. The BJP hired all sorts of media by engaging a foreign agency to project Narendra Modi not only as the Prime Minister-in-waiting, but also as a 'development man' with the Gujarat model. But what is actually the Gujarat model? Even after Modi's success in luring a number of large capitalists with huge concessions, Gujarat's position among the states in terms of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is ninth among the Indian states, meaning that at least eight other states are better placed in this respect. In terms of the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), which is a real indicator of the living conditions of the people, Gujarat is ranked sixth among the Indian states. But through the media propaganda barrage, the people were made to believe that Modi had turned Gujarat into the foremost state of India in terms of development.
As a result, the BJP has won the polls by an absolute majority. The ratio or percentage of votes obtained is not reflected in the number of seats won, but that is what Indian parliamentary democracy is. Some people in India may argue that in India, the possibility of the emergence of fascism is much less owing to the existence of parliamentary democracy. They must remember that Hitler also came to power through elections. In certain aspects, the BJP is closer to Mussolini. Let us take the resemblance of the name of the Bharatiya Janata Party( Indian People's Party) with that of Mussolini's party, II Popolo d'Italia (The People of Italy). Unlike Hitler, the BJP and its earlier avatars, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Jana Sangh, never accepted socialism even in words. Here too it is closer to Mussolini.
The BJP's earlier props were the big traders and big landlords. But Narendra Modi has been able to bring under its fold a strong section of the big bourgeoisie. The BJP has been trying to bring the entire big bourgeoisie under its umbrella and one section has been closer to it. This is illustrated by the list of industrialists present in the oath-taking ceremony of Modi on May 26, 2014, They were: (i) Mukesh Ambani, his wife and their two sons, representing the Reliance Group, (ii) Anil Ambani with his family including his mother (enpassant, it may be mentioned that Modi did not invite his wife or mother on that occasion), (iii) Ashoke Hinduja, Chairman of the Hinduja Group, (iv) Chief and CEO of the ESSAR Group, Sashi Ruia and Prashant Ruia, (v) the Mittal brothers, Sunil, Rajan and Rakesh, (vi) Gautam Adani, Chief of the Adani Group. All these industrialists are known for their plunder of the country's natural resources like petroleum, minerals, water, air and what not, with direct support from the state machinery. Hence for them, an omnipotent state that can suppress all discontent with an iron hand is most suitable.
Under such circumstances, the danger of fascism looms large. Narendra Modi by his worship at the Kashi Viswanath Temple and the Ganga Puja has sent a signal to the forces of Hindutva that though he has had to cast off his responsibility for the Gujarat progrom, he has not really changed. But there are certain objective impediments to the establishment of total fascism in India. In order to come out with an aggressive foreign policy, Narendra Modi will have to wait and watch how the objective situation develops. Moreover, within the BJP itself, there are moderate forces. One example may be given. The Modi government is against any condemnation of the Israeli attack on Gaja, and it is opposed to any discussion on this point. But a deputy minister agreed to a discussion in the Rajya Sabha. On foreign policy, Narendra Modi has so far not deviated much from his predecessor.
On the other hand, the parliamentary opposition parties, including the Congress, the CPI(M) and the TMC, are in disarray. Since all of them propagate the same development agenda, their opposition is mild and half-hearted, which only serves to boost Modi.
It is also true that all of them, whenever or wherever in power, be it at the centre or in a state, suppressed and are still suppressing those whoever dared to rise up against loot and plunder of national resources. This suppression took and takes various forms, including killing. Be it Nandigram or Singur in West Bengal, Kalinganagar in Orissa, Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, or present-day West Bengal, brutal suppression has been the only way whenever the people have come out in the open against the wrong policies of the government. Yet it is in their own electoral interest, wherever they are in power, to try to resist the rise of the BJP and Narendra Modi to power. Moreover, the contention among different imperialist powers will also put a brake on Modi's efforts at building a fascist rule. Modi's government has already opened up the insurance and defence industries to foreign capital, and different imperialist powers will compete with one another in order to secure entry into these vital sectors.
The danger of fascism is there. But there are too many slips between the cup and the lip. So, in order to combat the danger, the best way is to develop the movement of the toilers so that it can thwart the all attacks on the people on the basis of the strength of the basic masses. The working class leadership must try to mobilize the peasantry, the working class, the petty bourgeoisie, the dalits, the minorities, the tribals, and even the unemployed youths, which are easy prey to the so-called 'development' agenda. It will have to utilize all forms of movements, parliamentary as well as extra-parliamentary, legal and illegal, peaceful and armed, to fight against the conspiracies of imperialism, comprador bureaucratic capitalism and feudal forces, and to mobilize the democratic masses and strengthen democratic movements. It must be remembered that any attempt to find out allies amongst the ruling classes when the real objective situation for developing an anti-fascist front has not matured will not only weaken the working class, but also serve the interests of one section of the ruling classes. This does not mean that when an attack on the people needs to be combated by mobilizing all the forces that can be united for resistance, the task for such mobilizations should be negated. But such issue-based alliances must not be equated with an anti-fascist front, which is a political front. Such a confusion would obfuscate the vision of the people for resistance by creating an illusion that milder doses of 'development', a few more declarations of doles are better than the stronger one that is opening up the defence industries and the insurance sector to a much larger extent than before.
Now-a-days, often doles like the NREGP are shown as democratic. In this context, a small couplet by a Christian missionary, Dom Helder, may be quoted,
"When I give food to the poor
They call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food
They call me a communist."
Time has come to question why the people of India do not have food, and work, why the national resources are plundered, why the people are dying of hunger. Democracy does not mean only the election of governments; it means the right of the people to run their own state in their own interests. It is the struggle for that democracy that can really combat the danger of fascism.
Let the real allies be rallied against the real enemies. Real leaders of the working class will have to take up the challenge and be bold, audaciously bold, to put up resistance on all fronts and to win victory. This can be done if, and only if, they get rid of their sectarianism and 'holier than thou' attitude of all varieties and unite in the interests of the people.
Vol. 47, No.11-14, Sep 21 - Oct 18 2014