RWA Theme Paper

Constitutionalism in the Context of Fascism


[The Revolutionary Writers Association’s 29th State Conference was held on 27-28 January, 2024 at Vijayawada. Following is the abridged version of the theme paper issued before the conference for discussion. Rivera is secretary of RWA]

In the last speech that Ambedkar gave to the Constituent Assembly, one can discern his hopes as well as his doubts. Ultimately, his doubts became the reality. The Constitution that starts with the words “We the people of India” could not in practice bring about a fundamental change in the lives of people. This is because the Constitution was framed to act as a protective armour to the Indian State that took the form of bourgeois parliamentary democracy during the British rule and firmed up after the exit of the British. The Constitution became necessary to establish the legislative power of comprador bourgeoisie on the Indian State that functioned in the name of people’s representation. The Constitution was prepared to ensure that this class that had ownership over means of production also obtained power over Constitutional apparatus as well as social relations. As a consequence, Indian Constitution became an anthill of contradictions. Ambedkar had to face these contradictions even while framing the Constitution and he had to make many compromises. As far as possible, he incorporated the processes to achieve social justice and rights for the oppressed people into the Constitution. Despite that, the Indian Constitution was naturally framed for the benefit of the exploiting classes. Powerful examples of it are the inclusion of right to property and legalising exploitation in the Constitution. This is the reason why whenever there is a contradiction between people and the rulers, the Constitutional bodies are always on the side of the rulers. This is not because there are evil persons in the governing structures. This is the nature of the Indian Constitution. The method of formation of the Constituent Assembly, the way the Constitution was written and had been implemented in the past seventy years are all clear proof of this matter.

At the same time, the Constitution has the ability to bring about modern changes in the society. Those changes may be minor. But, they are crucial to the downtrodden people who have not seen even a ray of light for thousands of years. In that sense, the Constitution played a role in slightly improving the life of oppressed people in the past seventy years. The Constitution is providing them a semblance of legal security. Even though it barred them from active political participation, it gave them an opportunity to exercise their vote every five years.

The Brahminical Hindutva fascists are diluting even these limited aspects that are favourable to people. The fascists don’t like the liberal values in the Constitution. The Sangh Parivar that swears by Sanatana Dharma, the Caste system and Patriarchy would like to change the Constitution. In the initial days after the framing of the Constitution, the RSS leaders declared publicly that they do not accept it. Now that they are in power, they are destroying its aspects, processes and institutions that are favourable to people.   

However, they are not the only ones doing this. In the past, the Congress Party did its bit. Within a month of the adoption of the Constitution, the Congress government brought about the first amendment imposing limits on civil liberties. The Congress Party did its utmost to dilute the Constitution by not implementing its aspects that are favourable to people and by bringing about amendments destroying the ideals specified in the preamble. The remaining electoral parties also contributed to this. The Sangh Parivar that is the Hindutva fascist group of the comprador bourgeoisie is now giving a final blow to the Constitution.

This is the reason why “Save Constitution” came forward today as people’s aspiration throughout the country. In fact, the constitutional consciousness among oppressed castes, religious minorities and Adivasis increased in the context of the Constitutional ideals being diluted at all levels in the last twenty five years and they are fighting for their self-respect and social justice. There are people’s struggles being carried out for the implementation of rights enshrined in the Constitution. The fascist forces are resorting to the destruction of constitution even to oppose such struggles. In opposition to all this, protection of Constitution became a strong expression of the anti-fascist movement.

At the same time, the aspiration to protect the Constitution gave rise to a strong assertion that the Constitution is the ultimate solution for all issues. This resulted in total lack of critical outlook of the Constitution. Due to this, the notion that if the Constitution is saved, it will save India in turn is gaining traction. The worship of the Constitution is becoming like the idol worship in the Hindu religion. The realistic understanding that the Constitution has many aspects that act as protective armour for extremely undemocratic and tyrannical ruling class interests is diminishing. Those who are banking on the Constitution are ignoring the seventy year history of it working primarily for the upper caste, Brahminical Bourgeois class interests. If one casually states that ‘the Constitution has to be enforced’, the society will end up experiencing more of losses due to its anti-people aspects than benefits due to its positive aspects.

The recent Supreme Court judgment that abrogation of Article 370 is compliant to the Constitution actually violates the Constitution. In the future, people may see judgments saying UAPA, uniform civil code, citizenship amendment bill, air warfare on Adivasis and handing over properties to Adani … are all constitutional. The guidance to provide such judgments is present in the Constitution itself. Such judgments are a result of its inherent nature. Some of these judgments could have come even if the Congress or any other liberal, bourgeois party was in power. The current history is proof that bourgeois dictatorship and constitutional Hindutva fascism expanded so much on the basis of the Constitution.

The Constitutions that emerged out of bourgeois democratic revolutions and anti-colonial struggles, provided legal form to the social and political changes that took place at that time. Modernity is the touchstone for the values behind those changes. All those changes provided legal form to tyrannical dominance of the bourgeois class and to inhuman exploitation. If people don’t stop at what the constitutions provide but attempt to bring about further change, the bourgeois class will suppress them using the same constitution by claiming that what they are asking for is unconstitutional.

There is no rule that people should struggle within the limits prescribed by the constitution. They also express their aspirations and resort to forms of struggle beyond it. Constitution is not given by one person or a group. The constitution of any country is a result of its historical, political and economic developments. Democracy is deeper, broader and more meaningful than the constitution but it is snipped and cut short by it. If constitutionalism becomes stronger under these circumstances, the doors to democracy and socialism, that are to be historically achieved by the productive people, will be closed. In the fascist context, all the forces must unite to defeat the main enemy.

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Vol 56, No. 32, Feb 4 - 10, 2024