Democracy and Fascism in the Indian Context

K Murali (Ajith)

When a people are faced with a fascist onslaught, like the one people are witnessing in India today, a whole lot of social potential gets unleashed and channels for action are opened up. Large sections of people, hitherto socially passive, are summoned into political life. The possibility for unity among diverse forces, earlier unthinkable, is now something pressing for actualisation. Democracy becomes the catchword for all those arrayed against fascism. Depending on one’s views on what democracy is, this could be articulated either as its defence or as an endeavour to realise it. The definition of democracy then would become a matter of contention, even among those who declare against fascism.

Bourgeois democracy with its institutions like a parliament, independent judici-ary and constitutionally assured rights has a history of just two centuries in the devel-oped world. Fascism, as ideology and form of rule, has an even shorter history. In the normal functioning of bourgeois democracy the violence of the State is veiled. When summoned into action it is presented as an exceptional step called for by exceptional conditions; by a situation where the so-called ‘rule of law’ has been upset. This is the norm of bourgeois democracy. Fascism subverts this notion. The exceptional is now made out as the common place. Employing all means of propaganda, fascism projects a society threatened by the ‘others’, by internal or external enemies. This threat is even actualised through manufactured events, including staged acts of terror. These then become the justification for continuous, open, state violence and the suppression of democratic rights. Not just state violence, the violence of fascist mobs against the ‘others’ too is legitimised as the new normal of social existence. A ‘rigid concept of life’ is made explicit as unbending norms of social behaviour and political life. All di-versities get branded as defilement of an assumed ‘national ideal’. All dissent is stamped as treachery.

There are a number of intellectuals who place the roots of fascism in the moral realm, in the ‘evil’ present in humankind. This denies or at the minimum dilutes its class character. Evil is no doubt present in all humans. But it is not something a-historical or a-social. It is, and has always been, a social, historical construct. As Marx accurately observed, the human essence is an ensemble of social relations. If fascism is to be dealt in terms of evil and good, then that too has to be done in class terms, and, in our context, in caste terms.

The turn to fascism in the imperialist metropolis came about in a period of in-tense political and economic crisis. This is true of the present period also. The bank-ruptcy of the neo-liberal model made explicit by the financial crisis of 2008 and the prolonged recession seen since then has once again brought out many variants of fas-cism in these countries. One sees this not just in political platforms of the far-Right, but even in the actions and thinking of mainstream political parties. Thus, the signifi-cance of Trump in the USA is perhaps more to be noted in the continuing support he enjoys within the Republican Party and its social base, rather than in the obnoxious misuse of power of the man himself. Now, whole groups of Black and Hispanic voters are being disenfranchised there, all very constitutionally. It would be quite appropriate to recall that this mainstreaming of fascism too has its precedents. Mussolini and his fascist hordes were funded by none other than the British state, with the full knowledge of the Conservative Party’s leadership. While the pandemic worsened the economic problems, particularly the lives of the masses, it also brutally exposed the anti-human nature of neo-liberalism’s privatisation pillar and the fragile nature of its globalisation. Meanwhile, the pandemic was also put to use by the rulers to perfect tools of mass surveillance and control. Wild speculations about the origins of the Co-rona virus were quickly co-opted into racist and xenophobic propaganda, which in turn fed the fascist milieu.

The switch over from a formal electoral system with constitutionally assured rights to their blatant suppression has an economic dimension even in an oppressed country. The difference lies in the near total permanence of economic distress. The modern ruling classes of the oppressed countries quite often internalise elements of the fascist ideology. It is blended with the autocratic, 'rule by edict' system of rule, commonly seen in the past under feudal regimes all over the world. Imperialist coun-tries too witnessed aspects of the 'rule by edict' system of feudal polity under fascist regimes like those of Hitler and Mussolini. ‘Rule by edict’ replaced bourgeois democ-racy's 'rule of law' and 'formal equality'. But there is a qualitative difference between these two types of countries. This stems from persisting semi-feudal socio-economic and cultural relations seen in the Third world. As a result, even when forms of bour-geois rule like the parliamentary system exist, they are inherently flawed. The seam-less makeover from modern forms of bourgeoisie governance to feudal autocratic ones is a permanent feature in these types of countries. However, it manifests differently. In the urban centres, and particularly for the middle classes and upper classes, ‘the rule of law’ is the norm, mostly. But in the rural areas, and especially for those at the bot-tommost levels of society, law is given by the local oppressors. They are ably assisted by modern instruments of ‘lawful government’, like the police and local bodies like the panchayats. More often than not, their raw violence with all of its reactionary in-humanness is a permanent presence. It usually becomes the determining factor.

Even then, the suspension of electoral democracy and constitutionally assured rights, accompanied by the blatant suppression of democratic rights stands out as a distinct event. Nowadays, it inevitably summons up broad mass resistance. This is a reflection of the growth of democratic awareness among the masses. It is an outcome of their own struggles as well as the awareness they have gained through the wider global flow of information. The ruling classes are well aware of this. Therefore they consciously prepare political, cultural grounds for the formal realisation of their planned fascist takeover. Formal realisation means the adoption of fascist rule as a le-gitimate, constitutionally sanctioned, form of governance. This inevitably includes the formal suspension of all democratic rights, rights of the workers and even those of the ruling class political opposition. That is where the country is being pushed to by the RSS through the Modi regime. But it is yet to come. Therefore, one must necessarily distinguish between the trend and the moment. Strong elements of fascist rule are in-creasingly present. But the situation is still not like what it was under the Emergency of 1975-’77 period.

The Emergency was the first instance of a formal enforcement of fascist rule by the Indian ruling classes. Suspension of democratic rights, accompanied with rule by the repressive organs of the state, enjoying unrestricted powers, was not new in all those regions of the country where revolutionary or national liberation movements had come up. The Emergency was countrywide. All opposition, including that of the parliamentary variety, came under its suppressive boots. The context for this extreme step was the legitimacy crisis faced by the state, the crisis in the long-standing hege-monic consensus evolved under Gandhi and further supplemented by Nehru. It had started to face severe strain from the 1960s onwards. Claims of developing an inde-pendent Indian nation were increasingly exposed by visible signs of imperialist de-pendency. The legitimacy of the ruling classes' state was challenged by struggles of the masses and national movements. The Naxalbari armed peasant rebellion shook up the whole country. Attempting to repair and restore the hegemonic consensus, the Congress led by Indira Gandhi, tried out a mix of populism coupled with fascist rule. This was the politics of the Emergency. Though this was met with resistance from a wide array of forces, it is noteworthy that this wasn’t the main factor leading to the withdrawal of the Emergency. The return to the normal functioning of the electoral system was mainly prompted by some particularities of this country.

The first of these is its extreme social fragmentation with its abundance of castes, communal groupings, nationalities, ethnicities and regional identities. The second one is the absence of a dominant nationality or cohesive social group that could be made the social base of the state. Neither the ‘Hindi belt’, nor the Savarna Hindus, or even the Hindus as a whole can satisfy this need. Each of them is riven with divisions. Greater doses of Brahmanism only go to harden them, even as they join up against the ‘other’, the Muslims.

These are the unique conditions of Indian society which make the parliamentary system eminently suitable for the ruling classes. It allows some distribution of governmental power and opportunity to corner a share of the spoils of exploitation. It has the potential to accommodate various echelons of the exploitative classes, even some layers of the middle classes, and of course, varying patterns of caste representation. All of this can be done while maintaining and exercising the overall hegemony of the ruling classes.

Democracy is often equated to the parliamentary system and India is celebrated by many as the largest democracy in the world. The proof proffered is its seven and a half decades old parliamentary system, with regular elections, at least till the State level. Yet, even if one tries to verify this claim with the yardstick of parliamentary democracy the result would be quite contrary. Take the standard of ‘one person, one vote’. In India, the application of this principle produces results quite opposite to the promise of political equality (even if formal) that it is supposed to assure. As warned by Dr BR Ambedkar, what it actually does is to reproduce a ‘permanent communal majority’. An examination of the caste composition of the Lok Sabha proves him correct. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has replaced the Congress as the main political representative of the ruling classes. So long as the Congress was in that position it enjoyed solid backing from the Savarna Hindus. They have now shifted their allegiance to the BJP. Meanwhile, the new Lok Sabha too remains overwhelmingly Savarna Hindu. Their share in MPs is nearly half of the total. Though the political dispensation has changed, the communal majority enjoyed by the Savarna Hindus throughout the nearly seven decades of the Indian parliamentary system remains unchanged.

This then is the context in which one must situate and analyse the fascism presently being promoted in India, by the Sangh Parivar through the Modi government. It is an outgrowth of the reactionary foundations on which the Indian parliamentary system rests.. But that is not all. Under the Sangh Parivar dispensation it has acquired a distinct hue and doubly venomous content. This makes it appropriate to name it Brahmanist Hinduvada fascism. But Brahmanism is by no means restricted to the Sangh Parivar. Therefore, to make an accurate analysis of this fascism it must be done in a broader context.

Brahmanism has always been at the core of the Indian ruling classes' ideological make up. It was a key ingredient during the emergence, coalescence and alliance forging of these classes during the British period, as ruling classes in the making/waiting. Yet this was not the Brahmanism of the Middle Ages, of caste-feudalism. Complying with the pressures and influences of colonial modernity, it was recast, remoulded. Moreover, throughout this period, in keeping with the changing demands to be addressed while shaping up the consensus being forged under the hegemony of these classes, its articulation and stance have been modified. Thus people see the passage from Tilak's aggressive Brahmanism to Gandhi’s moderate one.

The aggressive Brahmanist stance advocated by the RSS and other Hinduvadi forces had existed parallel to the Gandhi-Nehru ideological theme from the beginning itself, all along vigorously contesting it. But that stream never gained traction among the ruling classes. In the aftermath of the Gandhi assassination it even faced severe isolation and suppression. Yet it was never completely excluded. On the contrary, it had always been allowed some space, even if limited. The passage of this aggressive Brahmanist stance from the margins to the dominant position it now enjoys in the hegemonic consensus of the ruling classes has been the most significant development in the Indian polity during the past few decades. It can be properly situated and understood only if it’s viewed in the light of the legitimacy crisis of the Indian state and the direction taken in the recasting of the ruling classes’ hegemonic consensus. Otherwise one will remain trapped in the superficiality of parliamentary politics.

The recasting of the hegemonic consensus was accompanied by a conscious attempt to bind the Savarna Hindu castes into an all-India compact as the core social base of the state. Energetic promotion of 'national integration', vicious suppression of revolutionary movements and nationality struggles and aggressive expansionist acts against neighbouring countries – all of this was put to the service of fanning up national chauvinism, now openly given a Hindu communal colour. Over the years, the undertones of the new hegemonic consensus being shaped up became more and more apparent as an explicit Brahmanism, packaged as resurgent Hinduism.

There certainly has been a spike in attacks on Muslims under the Modi Raj. The unabashed justification of such attacks by their perpetrators, the apathy of government agencies, the socio-political-cultural milieu where such murderous incidents get accommodated as the 'new normal' – these are surely new developments. However, one must also not forget that they have their antecedents in decades’ old state and non-state violence against Muslims and other religious minorities. This 'new normal' too needs to be situated in the socio-political process it has emerged from and which it further embellishes. Otherwise people would end up in simplistic and artificial divisions. The distinction sought to be made between a supposedly 'secular democratic' past and a threatening 'ethnic democratic' future is one such example.

Not just the BJP, political representatives of the ruling classes ranging across the whole spectrum from right to left, have endorsed and promoted the shift that India is witnessing. Remember, the attack on the Golden Temple, pogroms against the Sikhs, the opening of the Babri Masjid giving a boost to the RSS' plans eventually leading to its demolition – all of this took place under Congress rule. Rajiv Gandhi had symbolically launched one of his LS election campaigns from Ayodhya. This was also the period when a Supreme Court bench had conveniently declared 'Hindutva' to be a 'way of life', greatly aiding the RSS and other Hinduvadis. While the ruling classes as a whole endorsed the promotion of explicit Brahmanism, they differed among themselves (and still do) on the limits of its aggressiveness and the modes of its articulation.

The Sangh Parivar stands at an extreme in the explicit Brahmanism commonly endorsed by the ruling classes. However, it would be wrong to identify this as an ‘exclusivist’ position as opposed to some ‘inclusiveness’ favoured by others like the Congress. Brahmanism thrives on the graded assimilation of the ‘other’. It excludes the ‘other’ from an equal status precisely by allowing such graded space to it. It privileges itself by what may be termed as an ‘exclusivist inclusion’. There is therefore nothing new or unusual in the sermons of RSS leaders on being inclusive, even while their fascist minions go around lynching Muslims and Dalits. Modi’s tacking on ‘Sabka viswas’ to his earlier spiel of ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ is very much a part of this. Other than its extreme in aggressiveness, the shaping being given by the RSS to the hegemonic consensus has its own specificity. They are born of compulsions particular to it. To put its stamp, the RSS must recast it completely, displacing and marginalising the Gandhi-Nehru legacy.

Since the promotion of explicit Brahmanism is not something simply limited to Hinduvadi outfits like the RSS, it would be futile to seek weapons against it in the Congress or other parliamentary parties. Neither will they come from the Gandhi-Nehru arsenal. The task is to confront and undermine the ruling classes’ hegemonic consensus being forged with explicit, aggressive, Brahmanism at its core. That cannot be fulfilled by seeking refuge in the moderate Brahmanism of the Gandhi-Nehru type. Moreover, the resistance to fascism has no obligation to defend this legacy against the Hinduvadis. The liberalism it displayed, the democracy it professed, was superficial. It avoided the basic issues of democratisation in our context, even those of a bourgeois nature.

Democracy, in the modern sense, came to the land through colonial modernity. As such, it was never free from this pedigree. People must therefore take a critical look at this modernity in order to understand democracy in Indian context. Colonial modernity was not identical to the one that emerged in Western European countries through their transition to capitalism. This much is usually admitted. Some have now started terming it as ‘Indian modernity’. They perhaps assume that the qualifier ‘Indian’ would let them get away from having to account for the obnoxious persistence of caste-feudal values and relations. But that really doesn’t solve anything. By their argument, ‘Indian’ must stand in as an omnibus term for all the pre-modern features seen in this variant. One might then very well say that this modernity is one where the modern cohabits at ease with the pre-modern. But that was the crux of the formulation ‘colonial modernity’. Re-dubbing it as ‘Indian’ only serves to confuse the issue and takes a step back. What is needed is a deeper probing of colonial modernity. Is this merely a matter of a modernity that is incomplete? A modernisation process that couldn’t be taken to its capitalist conclusion, because it took place under colonial conditions? No, this is not a matter of being incomplete. Rather, incompleteness is inherent to it. It is an inseparable aspect of this modernity. This is rooted in the specific characteristics of bureaucrat capitalism, the distinct type of capitalism engendered and nurtured by imperialism in the oppressed nations.

Imperialism did indeed transform caste-feudalism. But it was not interested in destroying it. It engendered bureaucrat capitalism, a specific type of capitalism that was indissolubly linked to caste-feudalism. Intertwining with imperialism and feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism serves both of them as well as the traditional type of rich peasants. In other words colonial modernisation had a dual, contradictory role. Bureaucrat capitalism continuously transformed various features of caste-feudalism and ushered in the new. Yet, simultaneously, it regenerated, resurrected, significant aspects of that old. Transformation through bureaucrat capitalism will never be complete. Bureaucratic capital indulges in transformation as well as consolidation/stabilisation only to suit its comprador interests. Hence both the processes will contain distorted features. This is the essential characteristic of colonial modernity. So long as the country continues to be under imperialist oppression, so long as bureaucrat capitalism remains operative, this dialectic of transformation/resurrection will persist.

All the old social movements which emerged under colonial modernity were afflicted by this duality. They tried to seize the opportunities provided by colonial modernisation. But they also internalised the limits imposed by that very social process. Within this one must distinguish between two broad streams, which may be broadly termed as the Savarna and Avarna streams. The former includes all those considered to be within the Varna frame, from Brahmin to Shudra castes like the Nair, Reddy, Patel, Maratha and so on. The latter encompasses all those outside it. Presently that would mean the OBC, Dalit castes and Adivasis. Since caste is universally seen in all religious communities, this categorisation into the two streams applies to all of them. Savarna and Avarna, are related to their content, not the birth origins of the protagonists.

Savarna democracy was satisfied with modifications in caste-feudalism and the reworking of Brahmanism to suit the modern needs of the exploiters, new and old. It must not be confused or equated with the democratic values generated by the masses through their struggles or the rights they have gained through them. This may broadly be described as Avarna democracy. It addressed the basic issues of democratisation in our society. The movements that gave form to it dealt with the political, social, economic and cultural dimensions of democratisation at various levels, and in varying degrees. On the contrary, the movements of the Savarnas did not demand anything more than a reform of rituals, relations and institutions, including family that hampered the traditional rich and the emerging middle classes from availing new opportunities offered by colonial transformation. Beyond that, caste was not a burden but a useful social relation for their advance. But the Avarna stream could not but challenge the caste order itself. Any gain in class status would become of social value only through this. Alummoottil Channaar, coming from an Avarna caste, was the highest tax payer in the native kingdom of Thiruvithamkoor. He was able to buy a car and employ a driver. Yet, while passing temples on his way he had to get down and take a walking detour, to avoid causing pollution. Meanwhile, his driver, being a Nair (Savarna) could drive right across and wait for his employer. The driver, economically of lower status, enjoyed superior rights of passage, precisely by virtue of his Savarna position. Whereas this was denied to the rich Channaar because he came from an Avarna caste. Evidently, his social status had to be elevated in caste terms if he were to enjoy the benefits of colonial modernity to their fullest extent. This was the dynamic driving the Avarna stream. It contained the potential for democratisation of society at a basic level.

The Savarna stream also contributed to democratisation to a certain extent. But, given its position in society, its vision of democratisation was severely restricted. This may be illustrated through the following example from Malayalam literature. O. Chandu Menon’s famous novel Indulekha is considered a classic and ranked among the harbingers of Malayalaee Renaissance. Its plot revolves around the love of a couple of Nair youngsters and the attempt made by a Namboodiri (Brahmin) to assert his caste privileges in order to make the girl his sambandham. Ultimately love wins. That plot certainly was a challenge to the existing caste order and its social norms. The individual and her/his right to choose a partner stand opposed to caste privilege. Yet, this democratic stance remained well within the then existing caste norms, within Brahmanist norms. The protagonists of the novel also happen to be betrothed by relation according to Nair customs. In other words there is both the breaking and reassertion of casteist norms. The difference is that the assertion came from the Nair’s side, traditionally a Shudra caste. It thus reflected the upward movement of this caste, initiated in pre-colonial times and further advanced under colonial conditions. This is why it could aid democratisation.

Yet another instance of Savarna democracy in operation could be seen in the Malayalee Memorial of the 19th century. This was the first instance of civic action with its public gatherings and signature campaigns in this part of the sub-continent. It was also the first time that a Malayalee identity was deployed in political discourse. Yet for all of those democratic, modern, features its actual content was the demand of the Savarna Nairs to regain administrative posts in the Thiruvithamkoor kingdom. Under overarching colonial domination, these were increasingly being cornered by non-Malayalee Brahmins. The natives of Thiruvitahmkoor, sought to be represented by the Memorial were really the Nairs. Here one once again sees the deployment of the modern, in this case civic protest and national identity, leading to the recreation of the traditional. It was motivated and circumscribed by the outmoded, in this case relying on caste as criterion to determine socio-political role. Yet it was rendered through the political forms and symbols of modernity.

Both of these examples show why it is correct and necessary to register this social dynamic as Savarna democracy. Its Savarna character is of course quite visible. The dispute would be over whether it can be termed democratic in any sense, or whether it has contributed in any manner to democratisation. There are compelling arguments that vehemently deny these movements any claim on democracy. I disagree. The Savarna stream limited itself to reform of the Brahmanist social order and its values. But the movements it led and the discourses they gave rise too did go to open up space for democratisation. On it own, given its own Brahmanist fetters, it would never populate that space. That would need a challenge to Brahmanism. Yet the historical significance of the democratic openings made by this stream cannot be denied. It needs to be acknowledged in any meaningful account of democratisation in the society. Not just for history, this is relevant and necessary for the present too.

 The Brahmin reform movement of the Prarthana Samaj and similar bodies in Maharashtra and the non-Brahmin movements of Jyotirao Phule and Dr BR Ambedkar in Maharashtra is an example of the Savarna, Avarna streams in another part of the country.

 The Savarna stream of democratisation could present its reforms as a matter of individual and class demands against caste. But the Avarna stream could not but raise caste demands to satisfy similar needs. It had to first settle the matter of its caste exclusion. Equality of opportunity meant something different in this case. It had to be gained and legitimised primarily as a caste, not as individuals. Thus, the Avarna stream was forced to articulate its demands through the category of caste, something historically outmoded in the gaze of modernity. It seemed to be stuck in the old rut. But, in fact, in our context, it was really addressing a task of genuine democratisation. Unlike this, the Savarna stream remained limited to reforms within the traditional caste order. The democratisation it strove for was superficial. Yet it could articulate its needs through the language of modernity. Apart from removing the obstacles of orthodoxy it had no quarrel with caste or Brahmanic rituals. Once that was done, the casteist values and practices that persisted in the Savarnas’ social and private lives, could be ‘disappeared’. They could enjoy the privilege of being Savarna, while presenting themselves as individuals, standing above or beyond caste. Thus the Savarna stream could appear as the standard bearer of modernity even while it continued to nurture the values of caste-feudalism, now as reformed Brahmanism.

The near total identification of the transition that took place in Bengali society with the responses of its Savarna bhadralok to colonialism is a striking example of this posturing. As is widely known, the ending of Sati is commonly hailed as a momentous episode in what is labelled Indian Renaissance. Yet critical studies have well demonstrated its social and spatial limits. Sati involved only a tiny section of Savarna women, that too from only a part of the Northern region. How then can it be considered as representative of that whole sex in the sub-continent? Moreover, the ending of Sati was accompanied with the making of the ‘modern’ Savarna women with new notions of propriety. This was then generalised as the model for ‘Indian’ women. In the process, the relatively liberal moral spaces enjoyed by Avarna, and even Shudra, women were eroded. So how exactly does this qualify as Renaissance?

What one sees here is an inversion. It was generated by the interaction of the modern, brought by colonialism, with existent caste-feudal relations. Through this inversion, the sustenance of the traditional through its reform appeared as modern. Meanwhile, in the case of Avarna articulation, necessarily done in caste terms, the progressive appeared as outmoded. The real nature of social relations that shaped up under colonialism remains concealed. This false consciousness had tremendous influence in all aspects of society, particularly in the ideological realm.

Not the Savarna stream of democracy but the Avarna stream, with its roots going all the way back to the anti-Brahmanist Bhakti movements, must be drawn upon if people are to carry out any meaningful problematisation of democracy in Indian context.

However, a mere recall of those values and teachings will not suffice. They too had internalised the dialectic of transformation/resurrection seen in colonial modernity. In a caste-feudal society, to be true to its historical task, bourgeois democracy must engage with the task of annihilating caste, overturning the caste order. The merit of the movements mentioned above lies in their dealing with this task, unlike the Savarna stream with its formal symbols of modernity. Yet none of these movements could relate caste annihilation to the destruction of feudalism and imperialism, which determined and continue to over-determine socio-economic structures and values. Except for Vaikunta Swami, none of them identified colonial domination as an enemy or the nexus between the colonial power and Savarna royalty.

Bourgeois democracy inevitably fails when colonial domination itself protects caste-feudalism, even while transforming it. It cannot even identify the true nature or limits imposed by a modernisation taking place under colonial domination. This is because of its bourgeois class content. Even when genuine bourgeois democracy in an oppressed country stands against feudalism and imperialism, the capitalist class essence it shares with the colonial oppressor prevents it from repeating, even in its thinking, the revolutionary thrust of a bourgeois renaissance. No doubt, the opportunities, endowments and hence capacities of the early 20th century movements were quite varied because of their positions in the class and caste order. But that does not deny the ultimately bourgeois limits of their views or its centrality in restricting their practical aims. In the case of Keralam, only Sahodaran Ayappan could come close to surpassing this, ideologically as well as practically, by pursuing rationalism, addressing the issues faced by the emerging modern working class and recognising the historical significance of the Russian revolution.

This was the immediate context of the budding working class movement in Keralam. Its historical roots lay in the Avarna stream. In fact, its first organiser Bava Mooppan was inspired by Narayana Guru and so were his recruits. How did the emerging communist movement synthesis this? The new class, the proletariat, generated by the combined exploitation of imperialism, caste–feudalism and local capitalism could have overcome the drawbacks of the Avarna stream. Unlike other classes, this one alone had the living experience of all types of exploitation and oppression. This class had the capacity to take up Marxist ideology which would give an all around view of society, and link up all the streams of democratic and national awakening into a revolutionary assault on the old society. But that didn’t happen. The communist party leadership that had to lead the proletariat in this task repeated the old story of partial vision and partial opposition, now wrapped up in Marxist terminology. And this was true all over India.

 The continued existence of caste and other forms of social oppression and discrimination, the continuing domination of Brahmanic values in all aspects of society, despite the social ferment created by the movements of the past, invariably expose the limitations and failures of those movements themselves. What took place here was not a thoroughgoing renaissance but its faint shadow. This modernisation was by no means a capitalist one but an outcome of the partial transformation of caste-feudal society by imperialist colonialism. The re-reading of our past by Dalit, feminist, Adivasi activists and intellectuals have yielded many new insights that question the pretensions of enlightenment, in Keralam and throughout the country. This is of immense help in carrying out the contemporary tasks of democrati-sation. Given the present situation these can only be fulfilled in close relation to resisting and defeating Brahminist Hinduvadi fascism in all spheres – political, social, cultural and economic. Dr. BR Ambedkar had astutely observed that “Brahmanism and capitalism are the two enemies of the workers.” One can safely amend that, without distortion, and state that they are the enemies of all the peoples of this country. Capitalism understood as imperialism and bureaucrat capitalism and Brahmanism understood not just as the ideology but also the remaining caste-feudal structures and values are surely the breeding ground of fascism in the country.

[Presented at the webinar under the auspices of the Vivekananda Chair, MG University, Keralam-October 22, 2022]

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Vol 55, No. 21, Nov 20 - 26, 2022