A Global Phenomenon
The Rise of Political Right
The incidents like the assassination of Govind Pansare,
the controlled communal riots in Muzaffarnagar and other parts of the country, the hatred campaign led by the RSS and its allies to fan communal tensions throughout the country are alluding to the strategy of the Sangha Parivar; this strategy allows Modi to use big and hollow words about secularism on the one hand, while on the other allow the Hindutva brigade to carry on its work unhindered.
The upsurge of Right-wing politics including Fascism is not an isolated phenomenon as evident from the recent surprise electoral performance of Fascist forces like National Front in France, the rise of Svoboda with the help of US imperialism in Ukraine, 'Golden Dawn' in Greece, election of Tony Abbott in Australia on the one hand while the rise of religious fundamentalist forces like the ISIS, Boko Haram, etc on the other. It is a global phenomenon accompanied by a deep-rooted economic crisis. The global economic crisis is manifesting itself in a variety of political crises in different countries. Capitalism in distress needs Fascist forces to ensure the continuation of the accumulation process, the marginalizalion of the working class movement and keep the masses divided. Those who do not talk about capitalism and its crisis should also keep quiet about Fascism. History has shown time and again that the rise of Fascism almost always coincides with crisis of the capitalist system, often on a global scale. The second important thing is the the particularity of Fascism and its difference from other forms of Right-wing politics.
Unlike other forms of Right-wing extremism, Fascism is a mass movement having a social support base which principally includes the transitional classes like the professional and non-professional (entrepreneurial) petty bourgeoisie, what the Germans used to call 'Mittelstand', which includes the class of petty traders, small businessmen, middle men, brokers, property dealers, shopkeepers, and other parts of the lower middle class. Apart from that, the Fascist social base also includes a part of the lumpen proletariat as well as the unorganized/informal working class, especially who lack any political training in any form of working class organizations, like trade unions. The lower middle class is a potential ally of the working class in its struggle against capitalism. However, in the absence of an organized intervention by the revolutionary forces it is often left politically unattended which in turn leads to stampede towards the Fascist politics especially in the times of economic and political crisis, as its fragile social stability is threatened and it lacks any understanding as to who is responsible for this social and economic insecurity and uncertainty. This frustration makes this class particularly vulnerable to Fascist propaganda.
Every capitalist crisis is pregnant with dual potential: a revolutionary potential and a reactionary one. Which potential can be materialized depends on the relative preparation of the revolutionary working class vanguard on the one hand and the reactionary forces on the other. Today, for the revolutionary working class vanguard to be prepared, it is essential to understand the structural changes in the modus operandi of capital in the age of Globalization and the corresponding change in the nature of general capitalist crisis and also the nature of Fascist rise. After the Second World War, the power of financial capital has increased in an unprecedented fashion. The stupefying increase in the share of unproductive speculative capital in the composition of capital shows that it has become even more decadent and moribund. The period after the Second World War saw the decline of Fordism as the principal mode of accumulation and the period after 1973 saw the decline of welfare state as the principal mode of regulation. The consequent period saw the full-scale initiation of neo-liberal policies of Globalization. It is noteworthy that after the collapse of Dollar-Gold Standard world capitalism has not seen a single period of significant real boom; a constant "mild" recession has gripped it and it refuses to go away and collapses into serious crisis periodically like the 1997 crisis, 2001 crisis, 2007 crisis which is still going on. Each attempt to overcome this recession has failed and led capitalism into deeper crisis. Now capitalism cannot produce any real boom and has become more decadent and moribund than ever. It can only produce fictitious bubbles that are bound to bust. The present crisis is much more structural and deep-rooted than ever, including the Great Depression of 1930s.
With the changes in the nature of capitalist crisis since the 1970s, there is corresponding change in the nature of Fascism. Fascism also has become a much more structural and deep-rooted phenomenon, and just like crisis, has become less sudden and contingent. Even if not in power, Fascist forces play a much more important role of being an informal power of the bourgeoisie which the latter now constantly needs due to its perpetual crisis. In truth Fascism in India rose to power with the thumping electoral victory of Modi. This is also due to the tendency to find parallels with the German Nazism or Italian Fascism. On finding significant difference, a number of academics refuse to see Fascism in power in India. History always performs a redemptive activity and never repeats itself. It is necessary to identify the essential elements of Fascism in spite of looking for exact parallels or similarities. The essential elements of Fascism are the ones that make it distinct from other exceptional forms of bourgeois dictatorship, namely, military dictatorship and Bonapartist regime. One of these is the fact that Fascism is a social movement, a romantic upsurge of the petty bourgeois class. Another element is the fact that a Fascist dictatorship enjoys much more relative autonomy from the capitalist class as compared to other exceptional forms of bourgeois dictatorship. These two factors are extremely important in devising strategies of resistance against Fascism.
The most important elements of the strategy of resistance against Fascism includes the struggle against the influence of social-democratic and parliamentary Left politics among the working class. Historically, it was the social-democracy that prevented the working class movement from going beyond the limits of bourgeois legality and kept it imprisoned within the ambit of defensive and compromising politics. The economism of the revisionist Left is again proving to be a hurdle in giving the working class politics a revolutionary turn, though it is not as effective as it was in Germany and Italy. The second moat important element in forging a new Revolutionary Left strategy in preventing the Fascist rise from becoming a irresistible one is forging a strong class alliance with the lower middle class in India. The revolutionary Left needs to have a neighbourhood-based strategy to develop a strong social base among the lower middle class. It needs to show how it is the vagaries of capitalism that has created a menacing insecurity and uncertainty for the lower middle classes. It is capitalism which is responsible for creating alarming levels of chronic unemployment, economic anarchy and social chaos. If the Left fails to do so, the Fascist forces would become able to present the lower middle class masses with a false enemy, a 'fetish' in the form of the religious/ethnic minorities by turning myths into 'common sense', which will prevent the masses from realizing who the real enemy is. The third important thing to realize is the fact that the strategy of Popular Front put forward by Dimritov in the Comintern in 1935 is not going to be effective as there is hardly a sizeable part of the bourgeoisie that is progressive and democratic anymore. Instead, the Left should stick to the strategy of a proletarian United Front, something faintly comparable to the one adopted by the Comintern between 1924 and 1929. In fact, the situation in India and other countries is much more conducive for such a strategy due to the sheer increase in the size of the working class and semi-proletariat, besides the lower middle classes. These are the classes that can mount a potent resistance to the Fascist onslaught and have the potential to defeat it. ooo
[This is a slightly abridged version of a speech delivered by the author at a seminar organised by ‘Polemic’, at Kalina Campus, Bombay University, on the subject ‘Global Economic Crisis and the Resistable Rise of Fascism and Right-wing Politics’]
Vol. 47, No. 44, May 10 - 16, 2015