Vote and Revolution

Learning from the Fascists

Siddhartha Kumar Lahiri

An otherwise secular society searching nirvana in the Hindu heritage sermonised by the great charlatans and fortune tellers finds itself highly engrossed with electoral jamborees, the histrionics, bloody epithets etc. and prefers to remain glued to the TV screens galore with psephologists, political analysts, special commentators and reporters reporting from 'ground zero'. Of course all the bigotry, bickering, flabbergasted concoctions are meant for the solemn task of feeding the ignorant public. They must be educated and made able to cast their votes for 'honest, efficient and patriotic candidates' who will help legislating laws, something that resemble the kinds of Newton's laws of gravitation. Those laws will subsequently 'take their own courses' to facilitate the journey of the nation towards Eldorado by some divine system of logic. Even some of the erudite left scholars treated as guardians of the civil society and discharging for decades voluntarily the duty of 'national conscience keepers' suddenly start playing gullible voters and lose track of the fact that fascism does not rear its head from the democratic soil. It is congenitally a political by-product of the severe crisis in capitalism which desperate to the brink to surmount colossal collapse during the time of recession becomes ready to do away with whatever diaphanous veil of democratic posturing it used to preach during the halcyon days of its rapid rise. Those who cannot see in the rise of fascism increasing irreconcilability of classes in the society, they start drifting in their belief systems as if fascism could be defeated merely by campaigning against it within the boundary of parliament. They refuse to see that most of the shades of the electoral politics are direct or indirect beneficiaries of those forces representing multinational foreign capitalists, indigenous big capitalists and big land hoarders combined. Crisis in the capitalism is almost directly proportional to the growth of fascism. An apparently democratic combination in opposition starts showing symptoms of fascism after taking over the mantle of parliamentarian political power. The trend of fascism kept on rising from time to time in the Indian electoral politics; starting from Indira Gandhi as the Supremo of the Congress Party and latey culminating in the form of Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Interestingly, most of the leaders of the so-called opposition are in reality rising fascists in their own rights. Thus which segment of the ruling Conglomerate is sturdy enough to bulldoze rest of the contenders from the freestyle wrestling ring is decided inherently by the apparently invisible bookies managing the great national gambling show. Under such circumstances, those left activists who wish to maintain their political wisdom properly tuned under all weather, need to keep themselves abreast with some of the original writings available in the Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) literature and read creatively by fitting a particular socio-economic reality.

While explaining the term 'Commune', Marx wrote in clear cut terms the following words:
"The commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary, body, executive and legislative at the same time".

He added further,
"Instead of deciding once in three or six years which members of the ruling class was to represent and repress [ver-und zertreten] the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in communes, as individual suffrage serves every other employer in the search for the workers, foremen and book keepers for his business"1

The most interesting and important thing to notice in these statements is the fusion of certain observations and the action plans. One can extract following points from these statements.

1.  If a political organisation is using the word 'Communist' to its name, its first task is to organise communes. It hardly matters whether the institution is raised in towns or villages, factories or farmlands, the size does not matter, the essential thing is that the body should be working in character and it can be called working only when it can make laws (rules) and implement those laws simultaneously. In other words, laws do not take their own course. Law makers need to guide laws to take a course.

2.  Communes are to be run on the representation basis. Leaders are to be elected from the multitude of the working members. Who are the potential leaders? The persons who understand what works best for the majority of the people and accordingly frame laws and know the art of implementing those laws.

3.  From whom to learn this integrated (making laws and implementing the laws) act? During the time of Marx a fast transformation was going on from mercantile capitalism to industrial capitalism. Marx could realise that every employer was driven by the single motivation of maximising the profit and to make that happen they followed certain selection criteria to choose a combination of workers, foremen and book-keepers. The employers themselves might not be in a position to elaborate the inherent theory guiding them to choose that combination; they might act intuitively in different ways; the unique test of workability of a combination was its profit making capability. A political scientist (or, the organic intellectual) was supposed to study, learn, 'discover' those laws which were bound to be a lot many in number conditioned by different historical elements, stages of economic developments, types of socio-political and cultural heritage. Next task was to refashion those selection criteria of 'Employer's individual suffrage' to election criteria of 'Workers' universal suffrage'.

4.  Choosing representatives from the ruling class capable to 'represent and repress' the majority of the people for certain numbers of years (three, five, six etc.) for and institution which can frame laws but unable to implement those laws cannot be called a working body and that is exactly what a parliament represents. Parliaments, at best can legislate many democratic laws but these bodies are not entitled to execute those laws. As a result, in spite of having constitutions rich in democratic laws, the society might experience fast contracting democratic space to facilitate the interests of the ruling class. So, the central revolutionary task is to replace different types (scales) of 'non-working' parliamentarian bodies with 'working' communes. Communes or the institutions following the true spirit of communes are supposed to recall immediately those members who due to some reason fail to prove themselves as 'working representatives' that is the capability to legislate and execute laws simultaneously.

Apparently, this simplifies the revolutionary task of a Communist Party—Transform non-working parliamentary bodies to working communes. The goal defined is simple but is it that simple to practise? What should a Communist Party do? Should it request by some means leaders of the house to make certain amendments in the law book and insert the words 'Legislation and Execution'?

"No, that is not possible. These leaders are leaders in name only. They are weak, cunning and, corrupt", a peace loving honest citizen will put self-observation that way.

But why weak, cunning and corrupt persons occupy somehow the leadership roles in a society? At this point, Lenin comes forward with equally forthright observations like Marx and Engels.

"The real business of "State" is performed behind the scenes and is carried on by the departments, chancelleries and general staffs. In parliament this is just chatter for special purpose of fooling the common people".2

What is so special a purpose that needs fooling the people? At this point, Lenin says,
"The state is a product and manifestation of the irreconcilability of class contradictions".3

So, be it great oratory or the meanest of epithets used against the highest electoral representative of the people by the so-called opposition ('Chowkidaar chor hai' etc.) and the boastfulness of the office bearer in terms of the size of his chest or gesturing in hissing voice, 'ghoos ghoos ke maroonga' as a declaration of foreign policy towards geographically much smaller neighbouring country which coincidentally was the part of the same geo-political and cultural boundary before 'partitioned independence'; the chatter is simply meant to conceal ever-increasing class differences and the irreconcilability of class contradictions. Any party joining the chorus of the chatter and unable to fuse legislative and executive powers into one, knowingly or unknowingly are engaged to prove that 'reconciliation of classes' is possible. A party foregoes the right to call it communist if it starts believing and advocating that 'reconciliation of classes' is possible within the boundaries of the parliament house. For any practitioner of communist ideology, the starting premise for a journey towards a new society is to sharpen class struggle. Establishing communes or bodies analogous with the spirit of communes is a means to sharpen class struggle. Accepting nonworking bodies like parliaments, chatter houses for fooling the people or raising institutions (unions, syndicates etc.) following the footprints of parliamentarian culture, is a surrender to the idea possibility of 'reconciliation of classes' by legislation or ornamental verbiage for progressive amendments of old draconian laws.

A sizable number of political activists in India who like to be known as communists have either forgotten the basics of communism or they were not encouraged by their leadership to read the original texts. Their starry eyed concern about increasing role of black money in the electoral politics, their inability to manage enough money to buy votes and therefore remote chance to represent the people in the parliamentarian institutions or even to manage minimum needs for their small family units have lowered their self-esteem and public credibility to an all time low. If they like to stand up, they need to read and practise the basics of communism. How can they stand up? For semi-independent countries like India which has entered lately very fast within the neo-colonial mode of political-economic system, dictatorship of the Fund-Bank capital can be demolished only by establishing the dictatorship of the people and one can remember Lenin in the rephrased manner as following:
"The dictatorship of the people cannot arise as the result of the peaceful development of the neocolonial neo-feudal society and of parliamentarian democracy; it can arise only as the result of the smashing of the fascist state machine, the expansionist army, the sold bureaucratic apparatus, the communally charged corrupt police".4

From whom can the new generation of young communists learn to do away with the illusions of parliamentarian politics? They can of course start reading the freely downloadable rich MLM archives. But there are other alternative means. It might sound strange but one can learn from the Sangh Paribar. (Remember, Marx while addressing the making of communes, was emphasising the need to study how an employer selects workers, foremen and book keepers to run the factory). One needs to de-convolve the Sanghi pattern by making use of the Marxist filter. What is the modus operandi of the Sangh Paribar? Here is a quick look.

1.  'Sangh Paribar' is not driven principally by the Indian Constitution and the associated parliamentarian mode of functioning. Their grass root level organisational units are Sakhas which are having a degree of autonomy to recalibrate centrally decided general lines according to the needs of the localities and execute accordingly. Thus for the Sangh Paribar capturing seats in parliaments by hook or by crook is one of the many ways to establish their authority. (Learning: Allow sufficient democracy to lower units so that they need not depend on the 'head-quarter' for taking up independent actions. Educate the cadres centrally at regular time intervals)

2.  Sangh Paribar's understanding of principal contradiction is 'irreconcilability of Hindu-Muslim identity'. The solution for them is the establishment of 'Dictatorship of Hindus'. Internally, Sangh Paribar makes the cadres understand that as a religious entity Muslims are violent by birth. So, Hindu supremacy can ultimately be established by violent means only. Parliamentarian means is a part of the tactical line. (Learning: That the principal global contradiction of the capitalism is capital versus labour and the fascist forces are hell-bent to dissolve the basics and replace it with all petty factors and thereby a steady home-guard working to promote the interests of the capitalists needs to be established from the day-to-day practical examples).

3.  Sangh Paribar tries to formulate a homogenised understanding of a 'Hindu' which in its centre is determined by the acceptance of the age-old chatur-varna caste system [Brahamans (the priests and conventionally teaching the King how to rule a state) in the topmost segment followed respectively by Kshatriyas (the warriors and the police including mostly the chieftains and the king], Vaishyas (the traders, the petty officials etc.) and Sudras (the workers and the peasants)] This four tier caste system based on establishing the Brahminical supremacy was incompatible with the modern times. This was simply due to the fact that whatever one boasts of as modem were the contribution of fast growing science and technology developed by the advanced industrial workers (which includes scientists, engineers and wide ranging skilled workers). However, a highly dependent consumers' society ready to lease its rich oil, mineral and hydro resources at throw away prices could reinvent the caste system assuring the jobless citizens to feel themselves as the kings. Thus the in-built logic of the revived Hindu doctrine is to assure huge monetary doles to the voters and live the lives of kings without doing any work. (Learning : Incentivise good workers; promote more women leadership roles. Maintain professionalism in the political classes. Prioritise problem-solving attitude to have mastery over the MLM philosophy)

4.  Sangh Paribar must play saviours and for that matter they must keep on sharpening all fear factors by innovating different forms of civil disturbance movements and keep the social matrix and its boundary perennially unstable. People have seen it during demonetisation, GSTs, Aadhaar Cards, Surgical Strikes; Citizen's amendment bills etc. (Learning: Activists must be trained from the very beginning to resist fascist attacks of all forms and safeguard people's institutions developed on the basis to respect labour, skills and communal harmony. People's independent initiatives should be saved from the 'saviours'.)

For one thing 'Boycott the BJP' or 'Boycott fascism' or 'Boycott elections' might be effective at places but none of these slogans can be treated as the general tactical line of a communist organisation: Fascists are the anti-thesis of democracy; however they are well-adapt in raising different types of voices. Communists cannot limit their energy only in preaching, teaching and winning debates within a parliamentarian framework, they must learn to raise bodies of different forms and kinds which can simultaneously legislate and execute. They must closely observe the inner dynamics of the rising forces of fascism. Fascists act very fast and they act ruthlessly; their expertise in creating rumours, hate-campaigning, orchestrating genocides, has attained a different dimension in this age of facebooks, twitters and whatsapp groups. There is no harm to learn from the fascists, the combinational works with parliamentarian and non-parliamentarian forms, art of taking quick decisions and implementation, raising different frequencies of voices and the art of superposition.

However, at the end of the day, Communists must learn specifically to come out of the illusions of parliamentarism and again to quote Lenin,
"The way out of parliamentarism is not of course, the abolition of representative institutions and the electoral principles..."

"We cannot imagine democracy, even proletarian democracy, without representative institutions, but we can and must imagine democracy without parliamentarism, if criticism of bourgeois society is not mere empty words for us, if the desire to overthrow the rule of the bourgeois is our earnest and sincere desire, afraid not a mere "election" cry for catching workers' votes, as with the Menshceviks and Socialist Revolutionaries..."5

There was a time in the early nineties when a ML group was shifting its gear from heard earned dividend of raising commune-style organisations to broader mass organisations in the name of confronting fascism ('Indira hatao, desh bachao'). Indira Gandhi was assassinated 31st October, 1984. The said organisation was clueless. They had to wait for a few more years to raise the slogan 'Rajiv hatao, desh bachao'. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on 21st May 1991. Again, that organisation was clueless. In the mean time, the mass base of the organisation started shrinking faster. While taking initiatives to form anti-fascist front they hobnobbed with all types of organisations. Many of the grass-root level cadres joined subsequently the rightist camp. Now, they follow the old trend, they can again raise, 'Modi hatao desh bachao'. Interestingly, activists of the present organisation will find in the opposite side of the fence, erstwhile activists of their own organisation now wearing saffron robes; red star replaced by lotus in the flags.

Embracing social democracy and paying occasional lip service to revolutionary changes are not going to help resisting the hydra headed monster called fascism. Election times are always nice occasions to refresh some of the fundamental learning of communism, its deep-rooted commitments to identify the revolutionary potential of a society (which social democrats always fail to see unless there is certain 'spontaneous outburst') and identify new forms of parliamentarian posturing which postpone the prospect of fundamental change, not hesitating for a second to brand it as 'left adventurism', 'infantile disorder' or simply 'bookish idealism'. Coming out of the illusions of parliamentarism, Communists have nothing to lose but the chains of false encounter deaths orchestrated by the state and its fascist cohorts. ooo

1.   V. I. Lenin. 'The State and Revolution', Second edition, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1976. p.55.
2.   Ibid, p.57.
3.   Ibid, p.9.
4.   J. V. Stalin. 'The Foundations of Leninism', Second edition, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1975. p.48. The original quotation is: "The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot arise as the result of the peaceful development of bourgeois society and bourgeois democracy; it can arise only as the result of the smashing of the bourgeois state machine, the bourgeois army, the bourgeois bureaucratic apparatus, the bourgeois police."
5.   Ibid Ref. l, p.58.

[Siddhartha Kumar Lahiri is associated with Exploration Geophysics Programme in Dibrugarh University, Assam. He can be contacted by the email:]

Vol. 51, No. 41, Apr 14 - 20, 2019