- Abhinav Sinha
Dear Friends and Comrades,
The phenomenal victory of Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance on May 16, 2014 and the consequent attacks on civil and democratic rights, students movement, women’s movement and most importantly the working class movement and workers’ rights haveraised several questions, regarding the character of the Modi regime, the conditions that led to the rise of communal Fascists to power, the failure of the revolutionary Left, the role of the parliamentary Left and the Social-Democrats as well as the peculiarities of Indian Fascism and the challenges of the revolutionary Communist and working class movement. Needless to say, the present unprecedented rise of Hindutva Fascism to power must be located in the overall rise of Far Right (often Fascist) forces around the world following the beginning of economic crisis in 2007. From ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece to ‘Pegida’ in Germany and Britain and ‘National Front’ in France, ‘Svoboda’ in Ukraine or ‘Reclaim Australia’ in Australia, the Fascist and Far Right forces have received fillip from the over-all atmosphere of insecurity and uncertainty. The recent crisis is even snatching away the long-held rights of the white-collared workers and the middle classesin the advanced capitalist countries too asthese have become economically unsustainable for the neoliberal states in the advanced world also. The rise of Modi in India or the military rule in Thailand must be situated in the global rise of reactionary bourgeois regimes, including Fascist regimes.
The rise of Modi to power evoked a variety of responses from the Left. The immediate effect was that a considerable section of the Left went into a kind of ‘denial mode’. They had been claiming that the fraudulent practices of the BJP during the elections like tampering with voting machines, bribing, distributing booze etc. was the principal factor in the victory of Modi, or, tried to focus on the voters’ turnout (which actually was quite phenomenal), or the fact that only around one-third of Indians voted for Modi. Obviously such Leftists were not able to come to terms with the fact that Modi had won and they were in for a big political treat for the next five years! The point is that all the factors underlined by this section of the Left were constants and the victory of Modi could not be and should not be explained by a fraud nor should we console ourselves with the two-third Indians not votingfor Modi. This kind of approach only showed the lack of analytical rigor on the part of the Left. Another section of the Left was arguing that Modi’s regime is not a Fascist regime, it is only a religious fundamentalist regime like Khomeini’s. I don’t think we need to spend many words in refuting this proposition. Yet another type of the Left was there which was busy drawing strict analogies with the German or Italian experiences of Fascism to claim that Modi’s rise to power cannot be considered as a Fascist rise. For example, some focused on the fact that there are no concentration camps; unlike Nazi ideology which was based on racism, the Hindutva Fascism is based on the religious identity. Then there were people from the Marxist-Leninist parties who were often content with reiterating the anti-Fascist resolutions and proposals of the Comintern from the 1920s and 1930s. There is a new Left tendency which claims that Modi’s regime is not a Fascist regime but ‘dictatorship of the neoliberal capital’ (it can be asked if that is so how can we make a distinction between Modi’s regime and the UPA regime preceding it? Was it not a dictatorship of neoliberal capital? And if it was, then what are the particularities of Modi’s regime?). There are some optimists in the new Left also who claimed that the barbarians (communal Fascists) once in power, will be obliged to become civilized due to the modern secular democratic constitution of India as framed by Ambedkar. However, the two years following Modi’s victory has demonstrated beyond doubt that the barbarians are not going to be civilized by the constitution (which, anyway, cannot be an object of adulation even from the conventional bourgeois democratic standards). In nutshell, the revolutionary Left fell short of producing a balanced Marxist analysis either of the character of Modi regime or the factors that led to the rise of communal Fascism to power. If we talk about the Social Democratic theoreticians and ideologues as well as some independent Left intellectuals, we must say that people like Aijaz Ahmad, Sumit Sarkar have made some attempts to understand the phenomenon of Hindutva Fascism and have captured some of its peculiarities, yet their analyses too is fraught with various contradictions, often due to their bourgeois democratic illusions. We will return to them in a while. Thus, in this context, it becomes essential for the revolutionary Left in India to comprehend the peculiarities of Indian Fascism in its historicity as well as contemporaneity. This paper is a humble attempt to move in the direction of such an analysis without making any claim on its being the final word on the subject.
Before we embark upon a discussion of the salient features of the rise of Indian Fascism, it would be useful to comprehend the temporal and spatial specificities of the rise of Fascism in the age of neoliberal globalization.
- Temporal and Spatial Specificities of the Present Rise of Fascism
Various Marxist (as well as non-Marxist) theoreticians and academics have shown beyond doubt that the rise of the Fascism in various countries of Europe was one of the socio-economic and political fall-out of the imperialist crisis, the First World War and later the Great Depression which gave immense impetus to the already rising tide of Fascism. In other words, crisis of monopoly capitalism is one of the fundamental factors that leads to the emergence of various forms of bourgeois reaction including Fascism. This holds true even for present. However, this is the fundamental contradiction and it cannot by itself explain the fact that Fascism did not emerge in all the countries due to crisis. It was the conjuncture of various contradictions that led to the rise of Fascism to power in some countries. This conjuncture is not explained just by the fundamental contradiction. It is imperative to understand the principal contradiction that led to the rise of Fascism and it requires an understanding of the condensation of various contradictions into a political crisis of the ruling class in Germany as well as Italy. However, notwithstanding these national particularities, this much is certain that it was economic crisis of capitalism in the monopoly stage that led to the rise of Fascism.
The nature of world capitalism underwent some significant changes especially since the late-1960s and early-1970s. This period marks the beginning of the policies that later came to be known collectively as the policies of neoliberalism and globalization, marked by deregulation, post-Fordism, unprecedented financialization of global capitalism, decline of Keynesianism and welfare states. The period from the end of the Second World War to the collapse of the Dollar-Gold standard was characterized by unprecedented growth rates for world capitalism, declining unemployment and welfarist policies. Capitalism, driven by the US economy as its main engine, was thriving on post-war reconstruction of Europe and Japan. To most bourgeois economists it seemed that capitalism had finally overcome the cycle of periodic crises. However, the Crisis of 1973 shattered this illusion and inaugurated a long-term era of structural (may be terminal) crisis, that has not been followed by any period of economic boom.
We need not give a detailed historical account of the evolution of the present crisis. Our basic argument is that the crisis since 1970s is different than the crises witnessed before the 1970s. The growth rates of world economy since 1974 have remained below 2 percent and post-1990s, if we subtract the growth rates of China and India, situation appears to be even worse. Unlike the earlier crises, it is not a periodic crisis, but a permanent structural crisis of capitalism in the age of neoliberal globalization. It is a constant recession which periodically falls into serious crisis. In other words, late capitalism or the neoliberal capitalism can be characterized by a chronic, permanent structural crisis. Lenin had said that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism; it would not be an exaggeration to say, that globalization is the highest stage of imperialism. The change in the nature of economic crisis of capitalism is evident from the fact that the element of contingency (not as opposed to causality, but as suddenness in the occurrence of crisis has declined and constant structural crisis has become a characteristic feature of capitalist system in the age of neoliberal globalization.
This change in the nature of the economic crisis has produced a corresponding change in the nature of rise of different forms of bourgeois reaction, especially Fascism. In other words, especially since the late-1980s, Fascism also has become a permanent feature of late-capitalist society, particularly of post-colonial kind. Whether in power or not, Fascism as a reactionary social movement with significant presence and social base has become a permanent feature of the late-capitalist societies in different ways. The element of contingency and suddenness in the rise of Fascism that characterized the experiences of post-World War-I Italy and Germany is not to be witnessed in the present Fascist rise in various countries. The rise of Fascism in the first part of the Twentieth century was cataclysmic, as various Fascism scholars have shown. The Nazi and Fascist parties came into power within ten to fifteen years of their formation. The present Fascism can be characterized by recurrent paroxysmal activity. Instead of cataclysmic rise and fall, it can be identified by long gestation period (especially in backward capitalist countries), constant presence and molecular permeation. Instead of a short ‘war of positions’ and then swiftly moving to a spectacular ‘war of movement’, the present Fascist rise is marked by a long period of ‘war of positions’ and its rise to power can be characterized by a long ‘passive revolution’. Needless to say, this phenomenon is particularly visible in the post-colonial backward capitalist societies, though not limited to them. Indian Fascism, particularly, is characterized by a long period of ‘war of positions’ and it moved to the stage of ‘war of movement’ only in the late-1980s for a few years and then in the first decade of the new millennium. To sum up, the nature of economic crisis and the rise of Fascism have undergone a profound change with the changes in the modus operandi of capitalism in the post-Second World War period.
These are the two temporal specificities in the economic crisis and rise of Fascism at present that must be understood. These changes form the generality of economic crisis and Fascist rise in the period following the 1970s.
We must also comprehend the spatial peculiarities of Fascism. In the industrialized countries in the early part of the twentieth century, as we argued earlier, the rise of Fascism was cataclysmic and was characterized by a significant element of contingency and suddenness. However, in the colonized so-called ‘Third World’ countries, the material milieu for the emergence of reactionary Fascist ideology and Fascist organizations had remained present in a more perpetual and consistent way, though it grew into a reactionary social movement only in the period of neoliberal globalization. In the colonial countries also, the first Fascist groups had been formed in the 1920s and 1930s. Often these groups came under the influence of Fascist ideology of Italian Fascist Party and Nazi Party of Germany. However, they had their ideological and political autonomy. In other words, for instance, Indian Fascism was not simply a derivative discourse. It came into existence in the period of Imperialism, the emergence of militant working class movement in India and the relative peripheralization of brahmanical and landlord forces in the national movement. It combined the nascent reaction of the feudal brahmanical forces as well as the Indian bourgeoisie and developed a very limited support base among the urban middle classes, especially traders. Classically, RSS was known as a brahmin-baniya organization. The late-1910s and the 1920s were the years when the ideology of Hindutva Fascism was being developed by Moonje and Savarkar. The baton was handed over to Hedgewar and Golwalkar in the 1930s. The influence of Italian and German Fascisms only enhanced the process of incubation. However, unlike Italy and Germany, in India Fascist social movement did not emerge in the 1920s and 1930s, though a Fascist organization with cadre base had come into existence. There were multiple reasons for this. One was the fact that the fundamental factor that leads to the rise of Fascist social movements as the ‘romantic upsurge’ or ‘mystical upheaval’ of the petty-bourgeoisie was absent, namely, economic crisis. Such an economic crisis would lead to the uprooting of petty bourgeoisie, creating an atmosphere of insecurity and uncertainty for the middle classes who are faced with the prospect of proletarization and dispossession. The fright of proletarization leads these classes to support the Fascist reaction. Also, an upward mobile petty bourgeoisie whichis a conscious supporter of capitalist system and is closely allied with the big bourgeoisie, supports the Fascist reaction. These two sections of petty-bourgeoisie are not unified as a class through economic relations only, as Nicos Poulantzas has shown. This unification is primarily ideological and political effected by the sub-ensemble of petty bourgeois ideologies of ‘status quo anti-capitalism’, myth of the ladder and statolatry. Finally, such a crisis creates a crisis of the state,which becomes increasingly unable to package the collective class interests of bourgeoisie as the national interests through regular means of liberal bourgeois parliamentary democracy. Generally, the conjuncture of these factors creates the political crisis that finally culminates in the ‘handing over of the power’ to the Fascist forces by the national ruling class. In India, which was still under colonial domination, most of these conditions were absent and therefore,Fascism could not have emerged as a powerful reactionary social movement. However, the limited sources of reaction were able to provide grounds for the development of a Fascist cadre-based organization and Fascist ideology and also sustain it. Most of the colonial and semi-colonial countries had these limited sources of reaction due to various reasons and therefore in a number of such countries had developedsuch nascent forms of Fascist organizations and ideologies which were sustained by the support of the bourgeoisie.
In India too, the RSS continued to exist and grow since its establishment in 1925. It built a cadre-based organization and except the period of 1948 to 1962, their membership has grown steadily. They continued to carry out Fascist ideological propaganda, build a huge institutional network of schools, hospitals, shakhas, etc, infiltrate the armed forces, police and the bureaucracy especially since the 1940s. And it was only in the late-1980s and early-1990s that RSS/BJP emerged as a powerful Fascist mass movement, with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and anti-Mandal agitation. The spatial peculiarity of Fascism in the post-colonial backward countries is that unlike European Fascism, the rise of Fascism was not cataclysmic also due to the history of colonialism and the specific kind of post-colonial capitalist development; such a socio-historical context was able to provide the material background for development and sustenance of Fascist ideology and organization, but not a Fascist mass movement at least until the period of neoliberal globalization. That is the reason why RSS never went out of existence and continued to expand its cadre base. And precisely that is why the RSS’s attempts to develop an anti-cow slaughter movement and ‘Hinduization of Indian Muslims’ did not succeed in the 1970s and the same kind of communal Fascist movements have repeatedly succeeded since the late-1980s.
- Generalities of Fascism
In our opinion, to understand the workings of Fascism in the post-colonial backward capitalist societies, the Gramscian concepts of ‘war of positions’ and ‘war of movement’, ‘passive revolution’ and ‘molecular permeation’ are essential. History of Hindutva Fascism in India shows its similarities as well as differences with the German and Italian Fascisms. Let us talk about the similarities first and when we talk of these similarities we also underline the minimum set of characteristic features that identify any Fascist movement.
Fascism, first of all, is a particular form of bourgeois reaction characterized by a reactionary mass movement of petty bourgeoisie, white-collared workers and sections of lumpenproletariat. It is not any bourgeois reaction. This is essential to understand because in India this epithet has been used indiscriminately to signify any bourgeois reactionary or authoritarian government, like the Indira Gandhi regime of the Emergency period.
The second most important general characteristic of Fascism is that it represents the interests of the big monopoly capital in the age of Imperialism. As Poulantzas has argued, the historical function of Fascism has been unifying the romantic upsurge of the petty bourgeoisie with the interests of big monopoly capital. The debate between Marxist scholars whether Fascism was an instrument of big business from the outset or it emerged as a petty bourgeois movement and later became an instrument of the big business is misplaced. It was both from the very beginning. It could not have survived without support from the big bourgeoisie.
Third generality of Fascism is that it is a phenomenon arising out of the crisis of capitalism in the age of imperialism, which plays the role of fundamental contradiction. The most important task of capitalist state power is to underline the political and legal forms of production relations of capitalist society, to safeguardthem and to organize the collective class interests of the capitalist class and present them as “national interests”. During the period of economic crisis, it becomes increasingly difficult for the bourgeois ‘power bloc’ to maintain its class unity through the normal bourgeois democratic means and this results in a political crisis of the state. On the one hand, the state fails to politically organize the various fractions of the ‘power bloc’ and on the other, it also fails to package the collective class interests of the bourgeoisie as “national interests” as it loses its legitimacy among the masses. This is often expressed in huge scams and corruption, which is symptomatic of the fractional interests becoming dominant instead of collective class interests of the bourgeoisie. This is what happened towards the end of the 1980s as well as the end of the 2000s, leading to two different paroxysms of Hindutva Fascism in India and both paroxysms had a background of economic crises.The second important hegemonic function of the bourgeois state is to keep the masses of the working people disorganized through its ideological state apparatus; in other words, producing and reproducing workers and working masses as bourgeois subjects and atomized citizens, members of a ‘nation’. Lastly, the bourgeois state needs to regulate the relations between labor and capital to prevent a permanent state of political crisis. The welfarist measures of the UPA-I and UPA-II (to a lesser extent) can be seen as such regulatory mechanisms. All these functions of the bourgeois democratic state need two conditions to be fulfilled: one, the co-operation of the capitalist class and second, the existence of the healthy surplus for this capitalist class. In the periods of economic crisis both of these conditions are jeopardized. This further leads to the crisis of bourgeois democratic state, disunity of ‘power bloc’, drifting of big monopoly capital towards Fascist reaction and finally ‘handing over the power’ to the Fascists.
Fourth important general characteristic is that almost everywhere Fascism rose to power through a combination of street violence, deep infiltration into army, police and bureaucracy facilitated by conscious connivance of centrist leaders and unconscious connivance of social-democracy.
Fifth defining feature of Fascism has been its modern anti-rational critique of modernity which has led a number of academicians to believe that Fascism is product of some kind of pre-modern primordialism. Fascism is a modern phenomenon politically as well as ideologically. Sumit Sarkar has illustrated the vicinity of modern Fascist ideology with moribund forms of bourgeois anti-modern ideologies through the collusion of postmodernism and Subaltern Studies with the Hindutva Fascism (Notably Gautam Bhadra could see forms of laudable assertions of subaltern identity in karseva or utterances of Sadhvi Ritambhara or Dipesh Chakrabarty argued in favor of looking for creative elements in everything which opposes the Enlightenment modernity).
Sixth significant facet of Fascism is that it came to power or social dominance with particular ferocity in countries where capitalism came to power without any kind of radical democratic revolution. Barrington Moore Jr. has argued effectively that it is a harmful myth to believe that capitalism cannot come to power without a violent revolution doing away with feudal production relations. GeorgyLukacs also demonstrated that bourgeoisie can come to power without a revolution.
Seventh general feature of a Fascist rise is the construction of an imaginary enemy as an ideological device to weld the petty bourgeois reactionary jacobinism with big monopoly capital. Thus it is essential for Fascism to create a fetish in the figure of an ‘other’. This ‘other’ can be the Jew, the Muslim, the immigrants or something else. This ‘othering’ is achieved by systematically establishing myths as ‘common sense’. This machination of Fascism is present in almost every example.
Eighth important characteristic feature of the modus operandi of Fascist politics is the enlargement or expansion of the enemy figure. Fascist forces, in the process of ‘othering’, also establish themselves as the sole spokesperson of the majoritarian community. This makes every force opposing the Fascists an enemy of the majority community. So the figure of ‘Jew’ or ‘Muslim’ is soon expanded to include all political opposition, especially the Communist forces.Thus, everybody opposing Modi automatically becomes anti-national!
Ninth and a very important feature of Fascist ideology is its reliance on pathological forms of ultra-nationalism. Such pathological forms of ultra-nationalism emerged in the period of imperialism whose main advocates according to Bertrand Russell were Fichte and Nietzsche. Such exclusivist majoritarian nationalisms were based on the idea of ‘othering’, racial or religious purity, etc. and thus had immense potential to serve the particular ideological unity of Fascism.
Tenth significant general element of Fascism is its rampant attacks on workers’ rights, civil liberties and democratic values. It replaces commitment to these ideals with a politics of ‘blood and belonging’ and the creation through this rhetoric of a ‘purely ideological community’.
And the last general characteristic of the Fascist ideology and politics is the ‘fuhrer’ cult. This cult might take varied forms in different socio-historical contexts and might be very different from the ‘deuce’ of Italian Fascism or ‘fuhrer’ of German Nazism. The reason for this is the individualism prevalent in the main social base of Fascism, that is, the petty bourgeoisie. This class is susceptible to fall prey to the demagoguery of the supreme leader.
These, in our opinion, are the fundamental and general elements of Fascist theory and practice. These elements are present in different forms and different quantities in almost all examples of Fascist upsurges. In the light of these generalities of Fascist ideology and politics we can embark upon a short account of rise of Hindutva Fascism to demonstrate the presence of these generalities as well as its peculiarities.
- Hindutva Fascism: A protracted ‘passive revolution’
As we have already mentioned, the rise of Hindutva Fascism has a long gestation period which makes it different from the German and Italian Fascisms. This long gestation period has allowed Hindutva Fascism to effect a long and planned process of making a communal consensus. This broad communal consensus includes not only the active members of Fascist storm-troopers but also the vast masses of petty bourgeoisie that are passive supporters of riots and genocides. In the first two decades of its existence, the main Hindutva Fascist organization RSS continued to develop its cadre base and permeate the Hindutva Fascist ideology in the high-caste, communal sections of petty bourgeoisie; after the Independence, the RSS steadily worked to develop a vast network of institutions like schools, hospitals, shakhas, etc. and infiltrate army, police and bureaucracy. Till the late-1970s or rather early-1980s, it was conspicuous by the lack of vast social presence. The period of 1925 to the early-1980s was a period in which the RSS-BJP were involved in the process of building hegemony through what Gramsci could have called ‘molecular permeation’.
Construction of the ideology of Hindutva began with B.G. Tilak. A new identity of Hinduism was forged which Romila Thapar has called ‘Syndicate Hinduism’. According to Thapar, this ‘syndicate hinduism’ co-opted the brahmanical Hinduism, which was only one of the religious cultures of Hinduism in the Indian sub-continent. This brahmanical Hinduism was not the Vedic Hinduism but was constructed from the period of Upanishads to that of the Vedanta. During the colonial period this version of Hinduism became hegemonic due to the economic, political and administrative unification under the colonial state and through the colonial Orientalists like William Jones. The earliest sproutings of a new ‘syndicate hindu’ identity were based on these articulations. Tilak began Ganesh Puja in Maharashtra and started celebrating Shivaji as a Hindu crusader. Shivaji’s Guru Ramdas also came to be celebrated as a warrior against Muslim rule. In its formative years, RSS also celebrated him. However, Tilak’s Hinduism retained the commitment to anti-colonial struggle. As various scholars have shown, there were two trends within the nationalist movement: the revivalist as well as the modern. Tilak represented the religious revivalist trend within the national movement. However, in the process of taking inspiration from a ‘glorious Hindu past’ for his nationalist ideology, Tilak did contribute to the earliest formations of Hindutva ideology. Around the same period various other ideologues emerged who contributed to the formation of Hindutva, for example, Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Shraddhanand, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and many others.
However, the first true ideologue of Hindutva was V.D. Savarkar. He was a modern Fascist. He was materialist and atheist. Savarkar clarified repeatedly that Hinduism and Hindutva are two different things. Hinduism was only a part of Hindutva. He began as a radical anti-colonial activist. However, he was arrested and imprisoned by the British; after his incarceration, he emerged a different man. His anti-colonial edge was replaced with collaborationism with the British. He argued that when the British leave India, the true struggle for dominance will commence between the Hindus and the Muslims. He was the first to give a geo-political definition to the Hindu nation. According to him, those who inhabited the area between the Sindhu river and the Arabian sea and believe that this land is their ‘pitrabhumi’ (fatherland) and ‘punyabhumi’ (holy land) are Hindus. The Muslims can never have singular loyalty to this land of ‘Sapta-Sindhu’ as their loyalty lies with their holy places in Palestine and Arabia. So they cannot hope to have equal status here. This very idea was taken and developed by the second Sar Sangha Chalak Golwalkar in his ‘We, or our Nationhood Defined’ and ‘A Bunch of Thoughts’. Marzia Casolari has debunked the theory that RSS and Hindu Mahasabha (the organization of Savarkar) grew hostile to each other. She shows that the first Sar Sangha Chalak Hedgewar was secretary of Hindu Mahasabha from 1926 to 1931. In fact, the distance between the two increased only after Independence on the question of electoral strategy. We cannot go in detail about this episode here as it is not relevant to our present discussion.
In 1916, the leadership of Congress passed from the hands of Tilak to Gandhi. Gandhi merged the Hindu revivalist current and the modernist current of Indian nationalism into one, in which the Gandhian values of humanism, a peculiar kind of Indian secularism and democracy dominated. It would be an overstatement to claim that Gandhi was a modern secular in true sense of the term. His secularism was contaminated with heavy dose of Hindu revivalism and justification of Varnashram. It is well-known that he called himself a Sanatan Dharmi Hindu. Yet, he advocated a secular national movement which was inclusive of all religions and communities. This was the tenet of Gandhian nationalism that baffled the brahmanical forces the most. With Gandhi at the helm of the affairs, the Maharashtrian brahmanical hegemony in the Congress leadership was considerably weakened. With their peripheralization in the leadership of the national movement, the brahmanical and high caste elements as well as landlord elements felt the need for a separate organization. This finally led to the formation of Hindu Mahasabha and later the RSS. The latter came into existence in 1925 when India witnessed its first large-scale and militant working class movements in Bombay, Surat, Kanpur, etc. and the organization of first trade union of India, the AITUC, under the leadership of CPI. This was also the period of capitalist crisis and imperialist war. Since, the national movement was still going on, the RSS could not win over the bulk of urban petty bourgeoisie especially the trader class, which were still loyal to the Congress, yet, it did manage to develop a small social base among urban middle classes, besides their traditional support base among a section of feudal brahmanical forces and landlords. However, this was not sufficient for developing a reactionary mass movement. The RSS stayed aloof from the anti-colonial movement as is well-known. They collaborated with the British in the war effort in the 1940s, while at the same time being heavily influenced with German Nazism and Italian Fascism. Marzia Casolari has even provided evidence of close ties between the Hindutva Fascists and Italist and German Consulates in Bombay and Kolkata. They believed once the British left India they will be at the helm of the affairs if they collaborate with the British. That is why Golwalkar famously wrote that the Hindus should not waste their energy in fighting the British and save it for fighting their main enemy, that is, the Communists and Muslims.
After the Independence, the RSS under Golwalkar developed its various affiliate organizations like the VHP, ABVP, Bajrang Dal, Rashtrasevika Samiti, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, etc. It also continued to develop its cadre base and its institutional network, besides systematically penetrating the state apparatus. Between 1948 and 1962, it could not grow steadily due to its involvement in the assassination of Gandhi. However, during the Sino-Indian War, it resurged due to its anti-Communist propaganda. The second factor that brought the RSS into the mainstream and made it much more acceptable was the JP Movement, when Jai Prakash Narain included the RSS in anti-Congress movement, though even before that Ram manohar Lohia had tried in his anti-Congressism to include the saffron JanaSangha in his Samyukta Vidhayak Dal. However, still the social base of the RSS was very much narrow. BJP was formed in 1980, after the fall of the Janata government. BJP could manage to win only 2 seats in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. However, in 1989 it increased its tally to 86 Lok Sabha seats. These five years in fact constitute the period when Hindutva Fascism shifted from its long ‘war of positions’ and molecular permeation to ‘war of movement’. The factors that helped RSS-BJP rapidly gain ground were multiple. One of the most important and structural factor was the disillusionment of the wide cross sections of masses with the first four decades of Independence. The hopes cultivated by the new-found republic had been dashed. The 1960s and 1970s saw increasing penetration of capital into the rural economy and development of a class of rich tenant farmers after the Green Revolution along with increased depeasantization; besides, these two decades also saw the emergence of a big class of business petty bourgeoisie. This class was feeling suffocated under the dominant regime of accumulation and dominant mode of regulation, that is, the public sector capitalism characterized by, what Rajiv Gandhi pejoratively termed as, ‘Inspector Raj-Quota Raj’. The mid-1980s also saw the first steps of liberalization by Rajiv Gandhi’s government. In fact, the so-called ‘New Education Policy’ and the rhetoric of ‘computer age’ was just a way to prepare ground for a wider onslaught of capital, which finally began with the New Economic Policy of the P.V. Narsimha Rao government with Manmohan Singh as the finance minister. However, the processes of deregulation actually started during the regime of Rajiv Gandhi. This liberalization also started the process of uprooting of small proprietors.
So, between the 1960s and 1980s, capitalist development in India had created a sizeable class of small and medium size entrepreneurs who were feeling suffocated in the Nehruvian economic model as well as a petty bourgeoisie that was threatened by the prospect of proletarization.This trajectory was visualized in the Bombay Plan in the late-1940s.The Bombay Plan (also known as Tata-Birla Plan) itself stipulated that public sector capitalism should be continued only till the Indian capitalist class stands on its feet and then policies of open private capitalism can be started. That was the reality of Nehruvian economic plan. So what happened in 1991 was not an aberration from the plan; it was the plan. The class of kulaks, capitalist farmers and rich tenant farmers along with the frustrated business petty-bourgeoisie in the time of crisis were driven towards the Hindu Right-wing.Sumit Sarkar, Aijaz Ahmad and others have argued that Indian Fascism was different from its Italian and German counterparts in its neglect of economic propaganda. However, the RSS relied heavily on economic propaganda among the small industrialists and trader class. A separate forum, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch was organized by the Sangha to win over the business petty bourgeoisie through anti-foreign capital propaganda. Yes, it is true that here Fascism did not employ socialist-sounding anti-capitalist rhetoric. But we need to understand the completely novel historical global situation in which the present Fascist upsurge is taking place. There is neither fear of an impending socialist revolution, nor pressure from an organized economistic trade union movement. However, at the same time, it must be taken into account that world capitalism has become much more fragile and the very volatility of the present capitalist system without fear of an impending socialist revolution is sufficient to drive frightened petty bourgeoisie into the arms of Fascist reaction. So, the first factor that contributed to the rise of Fascist mass movement was the crisis of Indian public sector capitalism, where the socially-upward mobile petty bourgeoisie as well as the insecure petty-bourgeoisie drifted towards Fascist reaction.
The second factor was the Ram Janmabhumi Movement. This movement allowed RSS-BJP to give ideological condensation to the economic and political disgruntlement of the petty-bourgeoisie. When the economic and social aspirations are not articulated politically, they get distorted ideologically and find expression in reactionary political forms. That is what happened with the reaction of a petty-bourgeoisie that was frustrated for a variety of reasons. Its blind reaction had the potential to be articulated in Fascist ideology and politics through the device of communalism and ‘othering’ of the Muslims. The Mandir movement gave RSS-BJP the opportunity to effect this transformation and move to a ‘war of movement’. In fact, the Congress aided the Fascist forces in their endeavors in a big way. The ‘soft kesaria’ (soft saffron) line implemented by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi governments in the 1980s was particularly of help for the Fascists. Besides, the handling of the Shah Bano issue allowed the RSS-BJP to portray the Congress, and with it, the parliamentary Left as the pseudo-seculars, enemies of Hindus who placate and appease the Muslims.
The third factor that helped the RSS-BJP to consolidate its classical reactionary support base among the high caste and rich brahmanical forces was the anti-Mandal agitation. It is a big misunderstanding that through Mandal, the Mandir issue was stumped and this misunderstanding is based on a limited analysis of the elections of 1990, where the BJP actually increased its tally from 86 to 120 Lok Sabha seats. However, it was somehow seen as the defeat or big setback for the BJP, whereas it only showed that the steady rise of BJP continued. The Mandal issue had actually enabled the BJP to consolidate its base among the high castes without antagonizing the OBCs, which was evident in the victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections at the same time.
The fourth factor contributing to the rise of Hindutva forces was the demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992 with clear collusion not only of the BJP’s government in Uttar Pradesh but also the connivance of the Central Government under Narsimha Rao. A 462 years old structure was destroyed in more than five hours and the state and central governments could do nothing. What shall we call it if not the connivance and collusion of the state apparatus and right-centrist bourgeois politics? The demolition was followed by large scale Hindu-Muslim riots resulting in the death of around 2000 people. These riots clearly demonstrated the extent of communalization of armed forces and the police, which was going on for decades under the leadership of Hindutva Fascist forces.
The period from 1984-85 to 1992 can be called the first stage of development of a Fascist social movement, the first paroxysm, the organizational and ideological ground for which was being prepared for almost six decades by the RSS-BJP. As soon as the capitalist system witnessed its first period of serious economic distress and serious political crisis, RSS-BJP developed into a reactionary mass movement with considerable support from Indian big bourgeoisie, which had long been nurturing the Fascist RSS. The period from 1992 to 1997-98 was the second period when the steady growth continued and besides forming government in a number of states, the BJP for the first time formed an alliance government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, first for 13 daysand then for 5 years. The formation of Vajpayee government inaugurated the third stage of growth of Fascist mass movement. This period of more thanfive and a half years of BJP’s rule was characterized by unprecedented impetus to neo-liberal policies. For the first time in the history of Indian republic, a ministry of disinvestment was created. The rhetoric of swadeshi for slowly given up. Repressive laws were promulgated and the government also undertook revision of school textbooks along Fascist lines. This third period reached its zenith with the barbaric Gujarat genocide in 2002 resulting in unprecedented communalization of masses of petty bourgeoisie. When the BJP lost due to rising inflation and unemployment in 2004 and the UPA under the leadership of the Congress won, the secular-democratic and progressive community reveled in hysteria and claimed that it was the decisive defeat of communal Fascism. This hysteria was repeated on a higher tempo in 2009 when UPA emerged victorious with even more massive majority. However, the electoral fate of BJP should not be used as the ultimate yardstick for the health of Fascist rise. This has been proven with the phenomenal victory of Narendra Modi-led BJP. The victory of Narendra Modi signifies the fourth stage in the becoming of Indian Fascism. With this victory, Fascism has reached a new height in India. The clear mandate given to the BJP has allowed the Modi government to start a barbaric attack on the workers’ rights, civil and democratic rights, Communist revolutionaries, Muslims and other religious minorities, dalits and women and also undertake an unprecedented fascization of the state apparatus.
Here one more thing must be taken into serious consideration. Various scholars like Ashis Nandy have shown how Hindutva Fascism has successfully won over a section of middle class and lower-middle class dalits with aspirations of upward mobility within the ritualistic hierarchy of Hinduism as well as the economic ladder. Nandy shows this in the context of Gujarat where the dalits used to be the principal object of hate and how the BJP won a considerable section of dalits and replaced the old ‘other’ with the new ‘other’ of the figure of Muslim. During the Gujarat genocide, the RSS-BJP even succeeded in unleashing dalits and tribals against the Muslims. This process is still continuing and the new target of fascization is the OBCs in the rural areas.
This small account of the rise of Hindutva Fascism shows us the similarities as well as differences between the Hindutva Fascism and its Italian and German counterparts (which themselves are not quite similar). Unlike the European Fascism, the present Fascisms including the Hindutva Fascism are not cataclysmic. They are characterized by a long gestation period and repeated paroxysms; for instance, with every convulsion,Indian Fascist forces become stronger with wider mass base and Muslims are left all the more vulnerable. It is acute and chronic. Instead of using the tactics of frontal attack, Indian Fascism has performed a redemptive activity and rose as a ‘hurricane from below’, to borrow from Aijaz Ahmad. Secondly, this long gestation period has allowed for a much more effective ‘molecular permeation’, though this long process has also created gaps in the process which makes it politically much more fragile and vulnerable. This protracted process has also allowed Indian Fascism to infiltrate the state apparatus, especially the army and the police much more effectively. Moreover, in the changed global historical context, the Hindutva Fascism is not obliged to use anti-capitalist rhetoric as there is no fear of an impending socialist revolution or pressure from an organized workers’ movement. However, at the same time, it must be realized that capitalist system is much more moribund and fragile and also the resurgence of working class movement (though still in the form of spontaneous outbursts) does threaten this much more fragile capitalist class. This is evident from the Modi government’s efforts under the diktats of big bourgeoisie to alter the labour laws and illegalize labor organization and agitation.
It must be understood that not only the revolutionary ideology of the working class performs, what Walter Benjamin has called ‘redemptive activity’, butthe reactionary ideologies of bourgeoisie also undertake a ‘redemptive activity’. They also study and sum-up their past experience and try to minimize the errors. They, too, transform their ideology by co-opting new elements into them, giving rise to new types of ideological unification. It would be naive to assume that Fascist rise in a qualitatively changed global scenario will take the same forms and use the same strategies as used by the Fascisms of early twentieth century. As Aijaz Ahmad rightly points out, ‘every country gets the Fascism that it deserves!’
4.The Role of Social-Democracy and the Revolutionary Left in Making the Fascist Rise Irresistible
Most of the revolutionary Left parties and organizations have fallen short of providing a creative analysis of the rise of Hindutva Fascism. These organizations, as we mentioned earlier, are mostly content with repeating the resolutions and proposals of the Comintern in the 1920s and 1930s. This tendency has disarmed them as far as understanding and resisting the Hindutva Fascism is concerned. The role of Social-Democracy in the rise of Fascism has been well-documented, to which we will come later. However, some responsibility for the resistible rise of Hindutva Fascism becoming irresistible lies with the revolutionary Left too. As scholars like David Abraham,Nicos Poulantzas, Ernesto Laclau, Kurt Gossweiler, Anson G. Rabinbach, Reinhard Kuhnl have shown, in Germany too, the revolutionary Left failed due to two principal reasons. One was the deep-rooted tendencies of Economism and the other was “left”-wing deviations. Economism prevented the revolutionary Left from leading the working class to become the political leader of the working masses, including the lower strata of the petty-bourgeoisie and especially, the wage-earning petty bourgeoisie. Though the revolutionary Communists led militant anti-Fascist and anti-capitalist struggles and strove to form working class bodies of parallel power (Soviets in Germany and Councils in Italy), yet they underestimated the importance of winning over the lower sections of petty bourgeoisie, whose mystical upheaval under Fascist leadership proved to be their nemesis. The Social-Democracy on the other hand never had revolution on its agenda. It persisted stubbornly with securing the economic rights of the working class within the capitalist framework. As long as the system continued to produce surplus to finance the class collaboration of the Weimer period in Germany and Giolitti’s period in Italy, this strategy worked. However, as soon as this surplus dwindled with the outbreak of crisis, such class collaboration became untenable for the big bourgeoisie and led to a crisis of the ‘power bloc’ as well as contradiction of the ‘power bloc’ with the working class. It was in this context that the welfarist state lost the loyalty of monopoly capital which chose the Fascist option and handed over the powerto the Fascists. The maximum program of the Social-Democracy was to win over some welfarist schemes and wage gains and sustain them without questioning the entire capitalist system and social relations of production. This policy was bound to come into conflict with the privileged status of private profit in the period of crisis. Having mistakenly believed that democracy can be socialized in the real sense and thus it can overcome the capitalist system itself, the Social-Democracy was at complete loss in dealing with the system in distress. It was at sea as to what to do when the system stops producing surplus to be skimmed in the periods of crisis. Thus, the militant Economism and “left” adventurism of the revolutionary Left and the reformism and Economism of the Social-Democracy left the sizeable class of a threatened petty bourgeoisie at the mercy of Fascist propaganda and demagoguery and consequently made the resistible rise of Fascism irresistible.
The same problems plague the revolutionary Left movement as well as the parliamentary Left in a different way in India today. Most of the revolutionary Left parties that came into existence after the Naxalbari Revolt are still clinging to the line of New Democratic Revolution and the orthodoxy of the Semi-feudal Semi-colonial thesis. Moreover, the lack of any revolutionary massline and the “left”-adventurist deviation has prevented them from developing revolutionary mass struggles of workers as well as peasantry. They are virtually absent from the industrial working class which is huge (nearly 250 million). They are also conspicuous by their absence from the class of agrarian laborers and poor peasantry (over 500 million) which used to be their main social base a few decades ago. Their presence in the rural hinterland has decreased in the same proportion as of capitalist development in Indian agriculture. The crisis that Indian agriculture faces today is not crisis of feudal agriculture but that of capitalist agriculture. The largest revolutionary ML party, the CPI (Maoist) has lost its support base among peasantry and agricultural labor in Bihar, Punjab, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Now their main support base is in the tribal hinterland of Central India and there too, they are facing a crisis of existence. There are some other ML parties in states like Punjab which are fighting for the demands of the rich capitalist farmers like increasing minimum support price, which would have been regarded as an anti-people demand even in the stage of New Democratic Revolution by Mao!These parties have also forgotten one of the basic assertions of Mao that even in the stage of democratic revolution, the leading force of revolution is the working class and the main force of revolution is peasantry. As a consequence, they have a meagre presence in the working class and even this presence is identified at most by militant Economism. Therefore, the huge industrial working class is left at the mercy of reformist-revisionist trade unionism and the corporatist trade unionism of the Right-wing trade unions like the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangha. Moreover, the reach of Social-Democratic trade unions hardly transcends the privileged conclave of the organized/formal working class that constitutes a mere 7 percent of the total working class. The informal/unorganized working class is being organized by some ML groups who believe that India is not a semi-feudal semi-colonial country but a relatively backward capitalist country and the Indian bourgeoisie is not a comprador/agent bourgeoisie but a ‘junior partner’ of Imperialism. In fact, no industrial-financial bourgeoisie can be a comprador bourgeoisie as it needs markets. Only commercial and bureaucratic bourgeoisie can be of comprador/agent character. Those who claim that Indian bourgeoisie is acomprador and at the same time contend that Modi’s regime is aFascist regime are at complete loss. A comprador bourgeoisie is a reactionary bourgeoisie that behaves in authoritarian manner; however, such a bourgeoisie can never become a Fascist bourgeoisie with a reactionary mass movement of petty bourgeoisie behind it. We can see that the political understanding of most of the ML parties is at complete loss in explaining the character of Modi’s regime because it stubbornly clings to the General Line of 1963 as promulgated by the CPC. Their programmatic understanding is outmoded and their ideological position is dogmatic. This has also prevented the revolutionary Communist parties from developing a strong support base among the masses of petty bourgeoisie, especially the lower strata of the petty bourgeoisie. This weakness of the revolutionary Left has particularly helped the Hindutva Fascism.
The sins of Social-Democracy are trans-historically similar to the ones committed by the German and Italian Social-Democracy. Instead they even more unapologetically and unflinchingly make the argument that the age of revolutions is over and today we must concentrate on class collaboration between the labor and capital. For example, the former chief minister of West Bengal claimed that the working class should not engage in the street strategy of strikes and focus on developing ties with the capital as their destinies are stapled together. The age of ‘storming the Winter Palace’ is over! We must make a peaceful transition to ‘socialism’! Despite proposing this class collaboration, the Left front government acted on the part of capital in the most barbaric and naked ways, as the incidents of Nandigram and Singur showed. The degeneration of the Social-Democracy has developed to new depths since the early Twentieth century. They limit themselves to symbolic TU struggles for wage gains, social security, bonuses for the small minority of the organized/formal workers of bank, insurance, postal, telegraph and railways. Even in these sectors, they do not talk about the daily wagers, contract workers, apprentice workers, trainees etc., i.e., the informal workers within the formal sector. Their presence in informal sector is feeble. Now that the Hindutva Fascism is in power, the Social-Democracy, too, is bearing its brunt. However, they are particularly responsible for the Hindutva Fascism’s rise to power.
- Limitations of Academic Social-Democratic and New Left theorizations of Hindutva Fascism
Aijaz Ahmad is one of the leading left intellectuals of India. He has written extensively on Hindutva Fascism. His theorization of Fascism capturessome characteristic features of Hindutva Fascism. However, his analysis is fraught with a number of contradictions that result from his liberal bourgeois illusions. One of the most striking examples of his ‘liberal’ analysis is the distinction that he makes between idealist anti-democratic and pathological nationalism and bourgeois humanist or even socialist nationalism. Ahmad argues that nationalism itself does not have a class character and its class character is determined by the class that leads it. It appears to me that this idea of non-class ideologies is inspired by the new Left and post-Marxist theories of Ernesto Laclauand Chantal Mouffe. Laclau has argued in his celebrated work ‘Ideology and Politics in Marxist Theory’ that in any social formation not all the antagonisms can be characterized as class antagonism. According to him, the antagonism constituted by the production process is class antagonism because that is precisely the way in which class is constituted. So, we cannot talk about the capitalist without at the same time talking about the proletariat. It is struggle at the level of production that constitutes class according to Laclau and only this antagonism can be regarded as the class antagonism. Then there are other antagonisms in the society that cannot be called class antagonism; they are non-class antagonisms. For example, one can talk about the bourgeoisie without at the same time talking about the petty-bourgeoisie. Class antagonisms give rise to class interpellations and ideologies whereas the non-class antagonism leads to non-class interpellations or ideologies, which in the words of Laclau can be called ‘popular-democratic’ interpellations. The popular-democratic interpellations are in conflict with the power bloc in any social formation and that is the principal contradiction of any society; this contradiction is over-determined by class struggle. To put it in other words, ‘nationalism’ like all other petty-bourgeois interpellations, according to Laclau is a ‘popular-democratic interpellation’ and it can be over-determined either by the bourgeois ideology or proletarian ideology. The victory of Fascism in Germany and Italy was owing to the fact that the proletariat failed to hegemonize the popular-democratic interpellations and co-opt them in their ideological unity.Aijaz Ahmad is making a similar argument, that is, nationalism is not a bourgeois ideology, but a non-class interpellation. This theory confuses the two different moments of bourgeois nationalism and falls into nostalgia for the liberal bourgeois democratic nationalism. The pathological nationalisms that came into existence during the latter part of the Nineteenth century and the Twentieth century, were ideologies of a decadent and moribund big monopoly bourgeoisie, whereas, the popular democratic nationalism of the late Eighteenth and early and mid-Nineteenth centuries, based on the Enlightenment theories of ‘Rights of Man’ and concepts of citizenship were constructions of a radical progressive bourgeoisie. Benedict Anderson is more-or-less correct in characterizing nations as ‘imagined communities’; it is just that the healthy imaginations of the Enlightenment bourgeoisie degenerated into pervert imaginations of Imperialist bourgeoisie. The distinction made between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ nationalisms and comprehending nationalism as a non-class ideology by the likes of Aijaz Ahmad and Laclau is an ahistorical understanding. On the basis of this understanding, Aijaz Ahmad and in a different context, people like Laclau, argue for a socialist/democratic-secular nationalism. This understanding is hollow and fails to understand the problem of nations and nationalism.
The same liberal bourgeois logic is being used by the present revisionist Left in India. For example, Kanhaiya Kumar after his return from jail, addressed a gathering of JNU students and aggressively claimed that Leftists are the true nationalists; he has full faith in the Constitution (just like Aijaz Ahmad!) and the legal-judicial process of India (he should have read his own bail bond!), etc. Behind the facade of this aggressive stance stands the tragic reality that the revisionist Left has lost to the Fascists. In fact, Arun Jaitley rightly contended that they (the Sanghis) have won the first round of nationalism debate as the (parliamentary) Left has been forced to adopt their rhetoric! What can be more tragic for a Marxist to express, iterate and re-iterate her full faith in a Constitution that for a long time declared private property to be a fundamental right, but not the right to live (only after a long time it was changed,for even to a liberal it sounded politically obscene!), especially, when the constitution at least formally gives you the right to criticize it? From when did the Marxists begin to harbor the fetish for bourgeois legality? It is the same revisionist logic that has led Aijaz Ahmad to an ahistorical non-materialist understanding of nationalism and Kanhaiya Kumar to hysteric celebration of nationalism and the Constitution.
Sumit Sarkar’s analysis of Fascism is much more balanced and radical. However, academic Marxism has its own limitations. For example, his analysis too is plagued by liberal bourgeois mistakes. Sarkar makes a number of accurate observations about the similarities and differences between the German and Italian Fascisms on the one hand and the Hindutva Fascism on the other. According to Sarkar, one of the differences between the Nazis and the Hindutva Fascists is that the former did not rely on religion but race theory, which often stood opposed to religion. However, scholars like Wilhelm Reich have shown how the Nazi politics relied heavily on Christian religious organizational as well as ideological apparatus. Jan Breman also argues that the Nazi propaganda relied heavily on a pseudo-religious dogma, whereas the Hindutva politics depends on purely religious constructions. Sarkar is optimistic that the heterogeneity of Hindu traditions and practices is a big hurdle in the path of Hindutva and it would hardly be possible for Hindutva Fascists to adapt Hinduism to their political-ideological design. However, Hindutva Fascism is not based on the genuine Hindu traditions and practices but constructions of Hinduism according to its political design. Since one of the important constituent elements of Fascism is pragmatism (Richard Rorty has argued that the vicinity of Deweyan Instrumentalism with Nietzsche’s philosophy is yet to be properly evaluated), it is able to co-opt, incorporate and remould a variety of values and traditions according to its own ideological unity. Sarkar also makes a difference between Gandhi’s Ram and BJP’s Ram because history has shown time and again that the religious revivalism of Gandhian humanist kind can always be perverted by ideological sleight of hand by the Fascists and Hindu fundamentalists.
Achin Vanaik believes that Fascist framework is inappropriate to describe Hindutva as well as other Far Right/reactionary movements in the ‘Third World’. For instance, there is no charismatic Fascist leader (this does not apply since the rise of Modi as the ‘fuhrer’ of Hindutva Fascism), absence of explicit anti-liberal and anti-democratic rhetoric (this too does not apply anymore; the Hindutva Fascism, since it rose as a ‘hurricane from below’ instead of frontal power seizure, could use this anti-liberal and anti-democratic rhetoric once firmly in power; now the Modi regime is doing it), absence of anti-working class themes (this contention too is based on a very narrow analogy with German and Italian Fascism and at any rate an inaccurate claim). One can hardly find a lucid discussion about the class base of Hindutva movement in Vanaik’s analysis. According to Vanaik, it draws support from a variety of classes; however, Vanaik fails to understand that this does not make Fascism a multi-class political phenomenon. It is in the main the mystical upheaval of petty bourgeoisie in service of big capital and as a counter-weight/nemesis of working class movement. For Vanaik, Fascism is characterized by a movement that rapidly grows and fades out if it does not reach power. This, too, is not something that can be called a fundamental characteristic of Fascism. Aijaz Ahmad is right in arguing that Fascism has a long and global history and it can take different forms, use different strategies and different tactics in different historical contexts.
Jairus Banaji in a recent book argues that conventional Marxist theories of Fascism are doctrinaire and thus unable to answer very key questions which, according to him, are central to the understanding of Fascism and its rise to power. He believes that the Comintern’s line of Fascism as the dictatorship of the most reactionary elements of finance capital which tries to secure a mass basis is essentially incorrect as it tries to explain Fascism primarily as a product of the manipulations of capital or big business. Banaji argues that this view is wrong because firstly, it explains the rise of Nazism simply in the terms of dictatorship of capital and secondly, it ignores the political culture of Fascism and fails to explain how and why Fascist movements attract a mass following. According to Banaji, this Marxist view of Fascism embodies crude instrumentalism that conflates the financing of Fascist movements by sections of business with the dynamics of Fascism itself. It also views Fascism in overtly pathological terms, as an abnormality. Finally, it contains a catastrophic vision of Fascism, that is, it sees Fascism as a kind of cataclysm, like some volcanic eruption or earthquake, signifying a seismic shift in political landscape. Banaji fails to see that the process of rise of Fascism in Italy and Nazism was actually cataclysmic, rather than chronic or acute. That is, in fact, one of the features that separates the Fascist upsurges of the early Twentieth century from the Fascist movements of the era of neoliberal globalization and especially in relatively backward post-colonial capitalist countries. Banaji is right in arguing that the growth of Fascism in India has been gradual, step by step process where the Fascist elements penetrate all sectors of society and emerge having built up that groundwork. Banaji is appreciative of Reich’s and Arthur Rosenberg’s theories. Reich’s analysis pertains to psychic/character structures that explain why particular classes of individuals (petty-bourgeoisie) gravitate towards Fascism, and explores the susceptibility of these classes to Fascism in terms of a cultural logic; Rosenberg tries to explain the construction of the mass base of Fascism in historical terms (prevalence of Conservatism in the Nineteenth century Europe and its ability to mobilize mass support). Banaji, thus argues that German Fascism was not the creation of the Nazi Party. Rather the Nazi Party was, arguably, the creation of German Fascism. Needless to say, this analysis is plagued with one-sidedness and fails to see how Fascist ideology and politics unified the reaction of the petty bourgeoisie with the interests of the monopoly capital.
Banaji further argues that the conventional Marxist interpretations that prioritized the class base of Fascism or the economic forces at work behind its emergence fail to explain the horrors of Holocaust and the kind of rupture it came to signify. Banaji believes that this can only be explained in terms of “passive complicity” of the ordinary German people in the crimes of Nazism insofar as they bore political liability for installing the regime. They were not hard-core Nazis but they were crucial to the success of Nazism. In order to make sense of this mass-scale complicity,Banaji borrows from Sartre’s notion of ‘groups’ and ‘series’ or ‘serialities’ (see Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason). While theserialities are inert, disorganized and in a state of pure dispersion, the group is organized and has transcended the state of impotence, powerlessness and dispersion that characterizes the vast mass of society. And hence the group conditions, manipulates and controls this serialized mass. Thus, for Banaji, this manipulated seriality is the heart of Fascist politics. The large scale pogroms and genocides can only be explained thus. There are many problems with Banaji’s analysis. First of all, his analysis turns a blind eye to the various debates within the Marxist /Communist circles during the Inter-war as well as the Post-war period pertaining to the rise of Fascism and thus wrongly presents a monolithic, straitjacketed view of Marxist theory of Fascism. Secondly, in his enthusiasm to put forth the “Political Culture of Fascism”, he seems to totally do away with the ‘doctrinaire’ class analysis that the conventional view reeks of. Thirdly, people like Clara Zetkin and Antonio Gramsci had pointed out as early as 1924 towards the mass base of Fascism and hence characterized it as the mass movement of petty-bourgeoisie, not to mention the debates in the post-war period regarding this specific feature of Fascism which distinguishes it from all other kinds of bourgeois reaction. Lastly, the theory of an inert, powerless seriality manipulated by an organized group for its ulterior motives fails to explain this ‘seriality’ in class terms, the material conditions which made the petty-bourgeois masses to go against their own economic interests and support Fascism and also seems to deny any sort of agency to this ‘seriality’ in face of manipulation by the group. Thus, at best, Banaji’s analysis captures some crucial elements in the rise of Fascism, however, his claim to novelty is false. At worst, his analysis falls into the pit of sociologism and abandons Marxist class analysis.
There is a new marginal trend in the academic New Left in India that is inclined heavily towards the post-Marxist thinkers like AlainBadiou and Slavoj Zizek, but on the whole, it’s characterized by byzantine eclecticism and axis-less thinking. This trend argues that the present rise of Modi cannot be regarded as a Fascist rise; Modi’s regime signifies a ‘dictatorship of neo-liberal capital’, though it has a mass support base also. These ‘New Philosophers’ are unable to tell the difference between Fascism and this ‘dictatorship of neoliberal capital with mass support base’, because the latter phrase seems to be a pretty good description of Fascism of the age of globalization. They take cue from G.M. Tamas’s theory of post-Fascism, which argues that the present Fascist rise does everything and even more than what the Fascisms of the early Twentieth century did, but without subverting the dominant forms of electoral parliamentary democracy. One can point to the fact that Hitler rose to power without upsetting the general modus vivendi of the bourgeois dictatorship/democracy. It was only later that he introduced exceptional laws and suspended all democratic and civil rights. It is unlikely that Modi regime will do the same, but the possibility of new versions of exceptional laws cannot be ruled out once the Hindutva Fascists see an impending electoral defeat in 2019. A frustrated Fascism is the most dangerous Fascism. Even if this negligible possibility is not realized, the difference between the present so-called post-Fascism and Fascism is only quantitative. The collapse of formal institutions of bourgeois democracy cannot be counted as one of the fundamental signs of Fascism. According to Tamas, one of the defining features of Fascism was the break with the Enlightenment-inspired universalist concepts of citizenship whereas post-Fascism functions within the same liberal bourgeois democratic discourse. This, too, is not necessary for the basic functioning of Fascism in the neoliberal era. On the whole, the entire analysis of Tamas-inspired ‘New Philosophers’ is formalist and quantitativist and fails to understand the ‘redemptive activity’ of Fascism. In fact, this error of not seeing Fascism in its historicity as well as contemporaneity, comprehending the elements of change and continuity, phenomenally, essentially, temporally as well as spatially; and thus failing to understand the ‘redemptive activity’ of Fascist ideology and politics is common to most Social-Democratic, New-Left and post-Marxist analyses of Fascism that are in vogue these days.
A revolutionary Marxist-Leninist analysis of Hindutva Fascism as well as the resurgence of Fascism in other countries in the age of neoliberal globalization is essential to devise the new forms and strategies of resistance so that we can make this rise resistible and finally defeat it. This requires a historical and scientific approach and method. This also makes it imperative that we critically analyze the strategy and tactics employed by Communist revolutionaries against the Fascists in the early-twentieth century. This, along with an understanding of the peculiarities of present rise of Fascism, would enable us to formulate the anti-Fascist strategy of present times.
- The United Front Against Fascism: A Critical Assessment of the Strategy of Revolutionary Communism in the 1920s and 1930s
In the revolutionary Communist movement of India, the strategy proposed in 1935 in the Comintern by G. Dimitrov, known as the Dimitrov Thesis, has become the axiomatic and intuitive general theory of anti-Fascist united front. Moreover, the understanding prevalent in the movement is a distorted version of Dimitrov’s theory of Popular Front. This understanding is exacting a heavy price in many ways. First of all, this strategy of Comintern was not the first and the last thesis of revolutionary Communism and we cannot regard it as theconditio sine qua non of today’s anti-Fascist strategy.
Between 1921 and 1928, Comintern’s line was not that of a Popular Front (all anti-Fascist forces including the liberal bourgeoisie, Social-Democrats, anarchists besides the revolutionary Communist forces). During this period, the Comintern adopted the line of United Front of the Working Class. This was not opposed in principle to united front with the Social-Democrats, but it emphasized more on the ‘united front from below’ and exposure of the reformism of the Social-Democracy and its role in the rise of Fascism. The Fifth Congress of the Comintern in 1924 recognized Social-Democracy and Fascism as the two sides of the same coin, that is, bourgeois dictatorship. The Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928 called the Social-Democrats as the Social Fascists. However, by 1934 it was becoming more and more clear that the revolutionary working class politics had failed to resist the Fascist upsurge successfully. Fascism with its full barbaric ferocity was in power in Germany and Italy. Consequently, the line of Popular Front was proposed. In the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in 1935, Dimitrov drew a clearer line of demarcation between two forms of bourgeois dictatorship, that is, liberal bourgeois democracy and Fascist dictatorship. The Fascist dictatorship was defined as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” Dimitrov argued that in view of the fact that Fascism has seized power without any meaningful resistance from the working class, it is clear that immediately, the working class has to make a choice between Fascism and bourgeois democracy rather than proletarian dictatorship and bourgeois dictatorship/democracy. So the need of the hour was a broad-based anti-Fascist Popular Front. It called for the joint action of the parties of the Yellow International as well as the Third International, that is, united front of the working class + progressive bourgeois democratic parties. The international dimension of this alliance was also emphasized. However, Dimitrov warned against over-generalization of this theory and demanded independent investigation of different peculiar forms of Fascism.[ii]However, this evolution of the views regarding the anti-Fascist united front was pushed into oblivion after 1935 and the strategy of Popular Front became the only possible anti-Fascist strategy.
In our opinion, this is an ahistorical view. First of all, the strategy of Popular Front was adopted when the working class resistance was decisively defeated and in the face of barbaric onslaught of Fascist dictatorship, the question of forming a broad-based anti-Fascist united front became an immediate question of existence. This, in no way, was intended to be the general and universal policy of anti-Fascist united front. The tragic consequences of this strategy becoming the political horizon of anti-Fascist Communist strategy are now evident. For example, this led various Communist parties as well as scholars to portray Fascism as the common enemy of Communism and liberalism. This also led people to focus on the authoritarian character of Fascism and not on its mass movement character. Also, the role of this strategy, becoming the intuitive limit of anti-Fascist Communist strategy, in leading Marxists to often equate military junta, religious fundamentalist regimes with quasi-Fascist tendencies like Shah’s regime, etc. with Fascism, which did not have the remotest similarity with Fascist regimes. In other words, the apprehensions of Dimitrov about over-generalization of this policy were proven correct. Moreover, the policy itself had problematic elements. For instance, the extent to which the liberal bourgeois forces actually participated militantly in anti-Fascist Popular Front is yet to be evaluated. As far as facts show, except the revolutionary Communists, the only force which actually fought militantly against the Fascists, were Anarchists. This too is very unlikely to happen in present times especially in India.[iii]
Moreover, the era of neoliberal globalization has brought some fundamental changes in the entire structure of bourgeoisie. The progressive, democratic potential of bourgeoisie was still not a spent force in the early-twentieth century. There were sections of bourgeoisie which could have become a real part of Popular Front. Now this potential has completely exhausted. As organized political force, today there is no such thing as a really liberal-democratic progressive bourgeoisie with any kind of anti-Fascist credentials. For instance, which “liberal-democratic” bourgeois party could become a part of anti-Fascist Popular Front today? Mamta Bannerji? Mulayam Singh? Lalu Prasad Yadav? Mayawati? Nitish Kumar? Or the Congress? There are independent liberal-bourgeois democratic individuals in the society who tail-end the social-democratic parties in the absence of a genuine anti-Fascist united front of the working class. This brings us to the question of an alliance with the Social-Democratic parties like CPI, CPM and CPI(ML) Liberation.
First of all, these parties are presently busy in running campaigns like ‘save constitution-save democracy’. This is too contradictory because all of them believe that India is in the stage of democratic revolution! If there is already democracy, then, why democratic revolution? Moreover, if it is the stage of socialist revolution, then, why save constitution? Besides, these parties have already lost all kind of anti-Fascist credibility. We just need to remind you of the Gujarat Genocide of 2002. CITU (affiliated to CPM) was the largest trade union in India. Why did they not fight against the Fascists when the Gujarat pogrom was being carried out? Why did they not call for a general strike against Fascist genocide, which would have created a crisis and would have led to withdrawal of corporate support to the Hindutva Fascists? Even when children, men and women were being slaughtered on streets and neighborhoods of Gujarat, the Social-Democrats of India were content with symbolism and candle-light protests and Nehruvian-humanist calls for religious harmony and ‘sarva dharma sambhaav’. Even today when the Modi government is destroying the labor laws, these Social-Democrats, instead of exposing the corporatist trade unions like BMS, are forming alliances with them to protect the worker’s legal rights. These Social-Democrats also are not the Social-Democrats of the earlyTwentieth century but a poor ersatz for genuine Social-Democracy, i.e., the people who were genuine Kautskyites by conviction. The present Indian Social-Democrats are arch opportunists and capitulationists of a degree that makes the early Twentieth century Social-Democrats look like radicals! To what extent can we depend on these forces for a positive united front against Fascism? These forces will cause the collapse of any such front by their opportunism, collaborationism and capitulationism, will veto any radical measure against the Fascist forces, will prevent the united front to move towards a ‘war of movement’ against the Fascists and will limit it to ‘reactive defencism’.
In fact, the ongoing JNU student movement against Modi government is illustrative of the limitations of the Social-Democratic politics against Fascism. The left politics of JNU is of a peculiar breed. What happens in JNU stays in JNU! It’s a closed conclave and a potpourri of a variety of Left politics, including some shades of revolutionary Left politics, though the latter remains on the margins. The first problem of current agitation is that, notwithstanding the global support it received, the media coverage (of any kind) it got and the intellectual support it was given by secular, democratic and Left intellectuals, its reach is limited to the circles of those who are already converted. And there is no point in converting the converted! As far as the wider cross-sections of petty bourgeoisie as well as working masses are concerned, we are actually losing the battle of JNU. It was the need of the hour that the JNU Left came out of the confines of campus with pamphlets, leaflets and various forms of cultural propaganda and reached out to the working class and lower middle class neighborhoods of Delhi and exposed the “nationalist” claims of the RSS-BJP, which is not a very difficult task, given their history of collaboration with the British, non-participation in the freedom struggle, etc. The saffron forces have meticulously conducted their propaganda among these sections of population and we were shocked to see the anti-JNU sentiments among common working masses during the run-up to a workers’ demonstration in February-March 2016. Even the common women workers of Anganwadi were under the impression that something anti-national was going on in JNU. We had to try hard to convince them otherwise. The present struggle over JNU could be won only by winning over the common masses and going beyond the confines of university campuses. The site of this struggle is JNU; however, this is not merely a struggle of and for JNU. It is basically a struggle against Hindutva Fascism. However, the Social-Democratic politics dominating this movement has capitulated to the nationalist rhetoric to the extent that Kanhaiya Kumar was repeatedly trumpeting on various forums that Kashmir is an integral part of India, his firm belief in Constitution and legal and judicial system of India. Even various judges of High Court and Supreme Court have expressed their lack of confidence in the legal-judicial system of India, but Kanhaiya has full faith in it. This clearly shows that JNU “Left” is on defensive, which is quite characteristic of Social-Democratic politics when faced with Fascism. A united front with this Social-Democracy is doomed to fail.
Therefore, in our opinion, in the completely novel historical context of neoliberal capitalism of today, the positive proposal from Communist revolutionaries for a united front against Fascism should not be modelled after the Popular Front, but a new kind of United Front of the Working Class. This does not exclude the option of forming issue-based alliances with the parliamentary Left parties, for example, on the issues like Fascist attack on JNU students we should form issue-based alliance with the Social-Democrats also. However, the progressive potentialities of such a positive united front have exhausted. Positively, the revolutionary Communists should work for a United Front of the Working Class, which would include the revolutionary Communist parties, organizations, groups and individuals and genuine anti-Fascist secular-democratic individuals.
- Towards an Anti-Fascist Proletarian Strategy: How to fight Hindutva Fascism?
On the basis of above analysis, we can move forward to propose a strategy of fighting against Fascism in general and Hindutva Fascism in particular. The basic outcome of our analysis that has immense significance for articulating an anti-Fascist strategy is the fact that with the changes in the modus operandi of capital after the Second World War and especially since the 1970s, the nature and structure of world capitalism has undergone a profound change. This change is reflected particularly in the novelty of present economic crisis, namely, its structural character. The capitalist economic system is no more characterized by periodic crisis or the boom-bust cycle. The present crisis has become a permanent feature of world capitalism since the 1970s. Fascism, which arises as a result of the economic crisis and resultant political crises of the system, also has undergone an important change. Fascist reaction also, whether in power or not, has become a permanent feature of late capitalist society, especially the post-colonial backward capitalist societies. The elements of ‘contingency’ and suddenness in the occurrence of crisis as well as Fascism has been replaced by structural, chronic and permanent elements. We also pondered over the spatial peculiarity of Fascism in backward capitalist countries, where it developed in forms different from the European Fascism. In nutshell, the Fascism in these countries is acute, chronic, non-cataclysmic and paroxysmic and has become a permanent feature of the post-colonial late capitalist societies. These are some general results of our analysis which have particular significance for devising new forms and strategies of fighting Fascism. On the basis of these general contradictions, we will humbly propose an anti-Fascist strategy for present times in points. This proposal is not meant to be the last word on the issue and it would definitely be enriched by criticisms.
- First of all, the principal task in front of Communist revolutionaries on workers’ front. The most important task in front of Communist organizers on the workers’ front is to expose Social-Democracy. It is reformism and Economism of the revisionists and Social-Democrats that disarm the working class ideologically and politically and makes it vulnerable in the face of Fascist onslaught. Lenin had described Economism as the ‘inability to raise political questions’, that is, the question of power. Social-Democracy trains working class to measure political gains by economic and wage gains and leaves it going round and round in the circular pecuniary logic. Consequently, the revolutionary Communist forces have to educate the working class in waging the economic struggles politically as well as move beyond the pecuniary logic and raise the question of political power, revolutionary transformation of production relations and establishment of socialism. Therefore, one of the most important tasks of revolutionary working class movement today in order to be able to resist the Fascist onslaught is to expose the reformism, revisionism and Economism of parliamentary Left parties like CPI, CPM and CPI (ML) Liberation. Another tendency in the working class movement which is shared by but not limited to the revisionists and Social-Democrats is Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism. There are some ML groups that have fallen prey to these tendencies and they exacted a heavy price in leading a recent workers’ movement with immense potentialities into the pit of Anarcho-Syndicalism and non-party revolutionism. The political positions of this organization is akin the positions of ‘Workers Opposition’ of Kollontai and Shlyapnikov and the “left”Communism of Bukharin. They uncritically celebrate the “spontaneity” of workers. This line has led them to some really embarrassing moments recently, for example, when their workers’ organization “spontaneously” voted for supporting Mamta Banerjee in the last W.Bengal assembly elections! This anti-Leninist line also led the Maruti workers’ movement into the arms of revisionists and even Khap panchayats of Haryana! The tendency of Anarcho-Syndicalism and Syndicalism has a not-so-strange vicinity to the Fascism. Even if it does not support Fascism consciously, it objectively makes the working class vulnerable to Fascist politics and ideology. They fail to make distinction between spontaneous workers’ consciousness and proletarian consciousness which is constituted by conscious and institutional intervention by the proletarian vanguard in the economic as well as political struggles of the working class. This tendency obviously leaves the working class unguarded in front of bourgeois ideology and politics in general and Fascist demagoguery in particular. It is not a coincidence that one of the principal influences of Benito Mussolini was the famous Syndicalist thinker George Sorel and Syndicalist movement in Italy made the working class particularly vulnerable to Fascist co-option. Therefore, we also need to resolutely oppose Anarchist and Anarcho-Syndicalist tendencies within the working class movement. Fighting against reformism, Economism, anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism would enable the working class to fight against Fascism politically and move ahead to establish its political hegemony among the lower middle classes and petty bourgeoisie, which is essential for disarming the Fascist reaction. This brings us to the question of petty-bourgeoisie.
- The question of middle class and petty-bourgeoisie has immense importance for anti-Fascist Communist strategy. Marxist scholars like David Abraham, Kurt Gossweiler, Anson Rabinbach, Reinhard Kuhnl, Tim Mason, Nicos Poulantzas and Ernesto Laclau have established in their empirical and theoretical studies that perhaps the most important reason that Fascist rise became irresistible was the inability of the working class to establish its political hegemony in the vast cross-sections of petty bourgeois masses. This class, owing to its location in the capitalist production system and social formation, has a reactionary potential. However, at the same time, the petty bourgeoisie, especially the wage-earning petty bourgeoisie and the lower echelons of petty bourgeoisie have progressive potential too. It is a wall that can fall either way. The question is who is ready to apply political force: the revolutionaryCommunists or the Fascists. We must not repeat the mistakes of past and strive to win over the lower middle classes and the wage-earning petty bourgeoisie. The general strategy of the Fascists to create a ‘mystical upheaval’ of the petty bourgeoisie is to play on their sentiment of socio-economic insecurity, the prevalence of ‘status quo anti-capitalism’ or sentiments against the big capital (as done by the RSS through ‘Swadeshi Jagaran Manch’), the patriarchal and other primordial values of petty-bourgeoisie (which is a product of its economic situation in the capitalist society as Wilhelm Reich has shown) and its muddled and obfuscated consciousness (which allows the Fascists to create an imaginary enemy/fetish in the form of the ‘other’ like the Jew, the Muslim, the immigrant, etc. and blame it for all the troubles faced by the middle classes), the myth of the ladder, individualism and the aspirations of upward mobility.However, most of these sentiments can be converted into the anti-capitalist and anti-establishment consciousness by active and institutionalized political intervention by the Communist forces. In the particular case of India, one of the main elements of Fascist propaganda to win over the petty bourgeoisie is a pathological form of nationalism, religious sentiments and creation of a purely ideological and mythical glorious past. The Communists need to counter this propaganda without a confrontationist-rejectionist approach which constitutes the main lacuna of present Communist propaganda. For instance, when the Fascists talk about the glorious ancient Indian past, the Communists often respond by denigrating the ancient Indian culture and civilizationin toto in a non-dialectical way. The ancient Indian philosophy had a strong tradition and legacy of materialist thinking like the the Ajivikas, Lokayat, Samkhya, Nyaya and Vaisheshik philosophy, the radical Buddhist philosophy of Dharmakirti, Dignag, Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, the progressive philosophies of Charak and Sushruta. We must co-opt these materialist traditions of ancient India. We must not leave our claim on the entire ancient Indian culture and civilization; instead, we should claim the progressive elements of ancient Indian civilization. At the same time, we should demonstrate how these progressive traditions were struggling against the reactionary traditions and how and why they were defeated and pushed into oblivion.
Secondly, the nationalist claims of the RSS-BJP are extremely fragile. Their past is their biggest enemy. The Communists should organize intensive and extensive propaganda against the anti-patriotic, anti-national and renegade past of the Fascists, especially among the petty-bourgeoisie and middle classes. Moreover, they should particularly expose the scams and corruption of the Fascist leaders. These attacks hit the Fascists where it hurts the most. It exposes their moralist-ethical claims and lays bare their real chaal-chehra-charitra. We are implementing this strategy at present with considerable amount of success. Besides, we should run intensive propaganda against communalist demagoguery of Fascists and convince the masses on the demand of complete separation of religion from state, politics and social life. In other words, we must do the secularist propaganda in new creative ways. These are some of the basic strategies of propaganda against the Fascists among the petty bourgeoisie and the middle classes. The effectiveness of this revolutionary propaganda depends on multiple factors. This brings us to the third point.
- The effectiveness of any Communist propaganda among the petty bourgeoisie and working masses depends on the size of their social base among them. This brings us to the question of Communist ‘war of positions’ and Communist molecular permeation. The Communist forces need to dig trenches in what Laclau has called popular-democratic arena (though, unlike him, we do not believe that it is an arena of non-class antagonisms and interpellations), or in general, in the ‘Civil Society’. To simplify, the Communists should organize intensive and institutional reform work from revolutionary perspective. And this applies not only to the work among the petty bourgeoisie and lower middle classes but also among the working class. Needless to say, for this, we will need to focus on the working class and lower middle class neighborhoods. The institutionalized reform work might include building Janta Clinics, hospitals, schools, coaching centres for providing assistance to poor and lower middle class students, hearse vehicle service, libraries, sports clubs, youth clubs, gyms, etc. This reform work should focus on the question of health and education, but should not be limited to it and should expand to include cultural-political work. This kind of work would enable the Communists to build strong organic support base. This work in the future might coalesce with the stream of political work associated with building institutions of ‘parallel power’. Even if that stream takes another trajectory, this kind of institutionalized reform work would create a fortress-type support base in the neighborhoods. To fight against the formal state power of the Fascists as well as the street violence of Fascist storm-troopers, such organic support bases are essential. It would create a condition in which the Communist revolutionaries and the masses would become intertwined or interwoven like coconut fibre in a mat. This is necessary not only from the standpoint of fighting against Fascists but also for the New Socialist Revolutions of the Twenty-first century. However, we cannot dwell on this in detail here.
This support base is also essential for the effectivity of the Communist propaganda among the working class and the petty bourgeoisie.The success of ideological propaganda is based not only on the fact that it contains the revolutionary truth; it is also dependent on the extent to which the propaganda finds resonance in a meticulously built mass-base. The receptivity of any propaganda is enhanced by a favorable mass base. Moreover, this reform work would not be a reformist reform work, but political and revolutionary reform work. Therefore, it would also allow for the revolutionary politicization of the masses through institutions. This point would need a lot more elaboration for which we do not have space here.
- One of the key factors that led to the success of BJP in the 2014 elections was its expansion in the rural hinterland. It seems that the Hindutva Fascists have learnt from their Italian and German ancestors. The alliance with rural bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie was extremely important in their success and the countries where the Fascists failed to build a strong support base among rural bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, they could not rise to power, though they remained as a Fascist reactionary mass movement in urban society. The RSS-BJP conventionally did not have strong support base among the peasantry, at least till the end of the last century. This support base has slowly been built since the 1990s and especially since the second decade of the new millennium. This was also the result of the departure of classical Kulak politics as represented by the likes of Charan Singh. In fact, the kulak politics always had a latent reactionary potential. Moreover, since the peasantry is a millenarian class with no positive proposal for future, its lower echelons often tend to tail-end the rich farmers and kulaks. The differentiation of peasantry has increased to unprecedented proportions in Indian agriculture. However, the experience of Russian Revolution has taught us that this economic class differentiation is not enough for the progressive political alignment of poor peasantry. Spontaneously, the poor and lower middle peasantry tend to follow their well-off brothers. The political differentiation or cleavage in peasantry has to be effected by conscious political effort. Here, too, we have a class which is like a sword that can swing both ways. It depends on who carries the sword. The Fascist forces are making inroads into this class.[iv] To counter this, the Communist forces should strive to effect the political differentiation with conscious political effort in the peasantry. In this context, the task of building union of agricultural workers, union of non-agricultural rural workers and organizing the poor and lower-middle peasantry is extremely important. Moreover, revolutionary youth and student organizations should be formed to organize the rural youth belonging to the working masses.
- As we know, Fascism is a moderncritique of modernity. It is against Enlightenment ideals of rationality, democracy, secularism and humanism. Consequently, Fascist propaganda is generally based on rampant anti-secularism and anti-humanism masquerading as “nationalism”. We cannot argue that through this propaganda, the Fascists perform some kind of “mass hypnotism” or “obfuscation of consciousness” because then we will have to explain why the masses allow Fascists to do soor let it happen? We must comprehend the strong influence of primordial ideas among the petty bourgeois and working masses. It is this influence due which Fascist anti-modern, anti-secular, anti-women and anti-dalit propaganda finds resonance in the popular consciousness. This is especially true for countries where capitalism came to power through a conservative restoration-revolution or ‘passive revolution’ rather than a democratic revolution, for example, India. Therefore, the Communist revolutionaries should also organize rationalist propaganda in the petty bourgeoisie and working masses, especially the youth and children. In fact, the work among children and adolescents in this regard is of particular importance. We can call it the front of ‘progressive generation building’. Needless to say, we will be helped a lot in this by the institutional reform work which we have discussed above. The rationalist propaganda for the development of scientific temperament through progressive institutions pre-emptively strikes at the roots of Fascist propaganda.
- One cannot agree wholly with Wilhelm Reich’s arguments that the reason that petty bourgeois masses are susceptible to Fascist demagoguery is the sexual repression of women, children and adolescents by the patriarchal family; however, the oppression of women and repression of natural sexuality of women, children and adolescents does enhance the grounds of reaction among the petty bourgeois masses in particular and working masses in general. Empirical and clinical studies have demonstrated this fact beyond doubt, though Reich and Eric Fromm extend this line of argument to the extreme of psychological-biological determinism. However, we should accept the elements of truth contained in this argument. Therefore, another important dimension of anti-Fascist struggle is proletarian struggle for the liberation of women. Instead of adopting a confrontationist-rejectionist approach, here, too, we must employ the Maoist tactics inherent in the dictum — ‘among masses, from unity to struggle and among ourselves, from struggle to unity’. We are obliged to devise new and creative ways to strike at the roots of patriarchy and organize women liberation movement from a proletarian perspective. Such a movement can become one of the most formidable enemies of Fascist forces.
- Brahmanical ideology has always remained one of the constituent elements of Hindutva Fascism, though the Hindutva Fascist forces have devised devious ways to co-opt masses of dalits. They are helped in this by the surrenderist approach of the revisionist as well as revolutionary Left towards Ambedkarite politics. This opportunism of the Left in general, in the hope of winning over dalits by appeasement and placating Ambedkarite thought, is doomed to fail. At the risk of being tautological, we would reiterate the fact that Ambedkar’s political thought never went beyond the boundaries of liberal bourgeois thought. On a number of points, it was even more collaborationist and capitulationist than the radical democratic bourgeois ideals of the French Revolution. Ambedkar was a genuine Deweyan pragmatist and instrumentalist. He firmly believed that the State is the most rational actor in society, all changes are gradual and introduced from above and any attempt to make radical changes from below results in violence and chaos, which is, in the words of Dewey, ‘wasteful’. Ambedkar also believed in the Deweyan argument for the need of a humanist religion as the ethical code of society. These two principles are the basic co-ordinates of Ambedkarite pragmatist politics and these prevented Ambedkar from comprehending the phenomenon of caste in its historicity and in its contemporaneity and also from proposing a scientific and historical project for annihilation of caste, despite his genuine anti-caste feelings and convictions. Despite these serious ideological differences, the Left in general is making suicidal ideological compromises by talking about ‘Jai Bheem-Laal Salaam’, ‘Laal Salaam-Neela Salaam’, ‘Red Star in the Blue Sky’. Making alliances with genuine Ambedkarite organizations against anti-dalit atrocities is one thing; but trying to blend Marxism with the Deweyan Pragmatism of Ambedkar is a different thing altogether. This ‘purple haze’ is creating serious ideological and political confusion among the cadre of the movement as well as its supporters. The Ambedkarites are much more firm in their convictions and they are not particularly welcoming the idea of fusing Marxism with Ambedkarite political thought; they are sticking to Ambedkar’s statement, “Marxism is swine’s philosophy”! Moreover, this strategy is not working for the Left as far as winning over dalits is concerned. The working masses among dalits can be won over to the side of revolution only if the revolutionary Communists, instead of capitulating to Ambedkarite pragmatism, present a coherent revolutionary project of annihilation of caste. The long term program for annihilation of caste can only be the program of socialism; however, the short-term program should be building a class-based anti-caste movement. We have been working on this with considerable success. The Fascists have been able to break into the dalit vote bank as well as build support base among dalits precisely because the Ambedkarite politics cannot stop them, and those who can stop them are involved in opportunism and identity politics or are failing to present a proletarian project of annihilation of caste. The Fascists are making good of this situation. There is evidence to show that wherever the revolutionary Communists developed anti-caste movements and strong support base among the dalit masses, the Fascists failed to make any real impact on dalits. However, the present spread of the ‘purple haze’ is exacting a heavy price in preventing the revolutionary Left from building an independent proletarian position in the anti-caste movement. If the revolutionary Communists succeed in performing this task, the anti-Fascist anti-brahmanical edge of our resistance will become even sharper. This is one of the most important tasks today — building a militant and revolutionary class-based anti-caste movement.
- The immense significance of organizing the unorganized/informal workers in the informal as well as formal sector cannot be underestimated. The unorganized/informal working class of the era of neoliberal globalization is not primordial, underdeveloped, less class conscious working class with “backward linkages”. It is a highly advanced working class which is multi-skilled and, what Jan Breman has called, ‘footloose’ labor, a kind of ‘wage hunter and gatherer’. This worker works within a span of one year in many kinds of factories/workshops, industries or does many kinds of petty jobs such as working as a rickshaw-puller or a street vendor, etc. This worker does not see one capitalist owner as its enemy. Due to its workplace mobility, it sees the entire class of capitalists as its enemy. Moreover, they have least illusion about the bourgeois state whose violence they face on everyday basis.So, this new informal/unorganized working class, which is huge (93 percent of total workers of India), must be placed at the centre of the front of organizing workers. This working class, due to its work place mobility, is difficult to be organized in factory-based unions. It can be organized only if we shift the location of organization from workplace to neighborhood and then move to the workplace, in other words, ‘from factories to neighborhoods and then from neighborhoods to factory gates’. Therefore, we should focus on building neighborhood based unions (not to be confused with community organization). The importance of neighborhood-based organizing has been discussed above. The neighborhood-based organization can become a barrier for Fascist forces when they try to infiltrate the working class. It is a well-known fact that Fascists have been making attempts through religious activities (like jagaran, chowki, etc) and reform activities (like the Sewa Bharti) in working class neighborhoods to make their social base among informal workers. That, besides petty bourgeoisie, the Hindutva Fascism has time and again used, not only lumpenproletariat, but also informal/unorganized workers as their storm-troopers and muscle power, is well acknowledged. Thousands of karsevaks or killer brigades during the Gujarat genocide included, not only petty bourgeoisie, but also lumpenproletariat, informal-unorganized workers and most notably dalits and tribals. Therefore, we must build neighborhood-based organizations of workers, while especially focusing on the informal-unorganized workers. If we do not hegemonize the neighborhoods of informal-unorganized workers, the Fascists will and it will eventually result in the destruction of working class movement. The rise of Shiv Sena and the destruction of workers’ movement in Bombay stand testimony to this fact. We must not repeat that mistake.
- As is well-known, one of the strategies employed byFascism has always been street violence and terror tactics. We cannot fight them only with legal battles, candle-light vigils etc. We have seen how Fascists combine the terror tactics with infiltration into the state apparatus and how even the bourgeois democratic state uses them as an ‘informal state power’ of the big bourgeoisie through the connivance of the right-centrist and centrist bourgeois leaders. Therefore, there are serious limitations to legal battles against Fascism as well as pacifist candle-light vigils. The German and Italian Communists as well as Anarchists in Spain and Italy showed that there is no point in having arguments with Fascists (in fact, a Nazi Wilhelm Stapel, accepted in his ‘Christentumund Nationalsozialismus’: “…National Socialism…cannot be countered with arguments. Arguments could only be effective if the movement had grown by arguments.”); we must be able to deal with them on streets. They organized factory and worker brigades to fight against Fascists. They successfully fought against them in many instances. Wherever, the Fascists found such brigades ready to fight, they seldom engaged. They were often chased away. They are able to show their “masculinist power” only in herds and against the unarmed, unorganized and vulnerable people. The moment they sniff the possibility of militant resistance, their confidence deflates. We have seen this with our own eyes a number of times. Therefore, the revolutionary Communists must make a strategy to counter the terror tactics and street violence of Fascists by paying them in the same coin. Here too, the significance of neighborhood-based organic support base through institutionalized revolutionary reform work is clearly evident. We must organize the youth in revolutionary youth organizations; make youth brigades, like ‘Bhagat Singh Brigade’, ‘Sukhdev Brigade’, etc.; do some martial training and hold physical training camps. This should be done among the working class as well as the petty bourgeoisie. This is essential if we have to survive against the Fascist onslaught. We cannot continue to follow the ‘fire brigade’ style of anti-Fascist activities (for example, we wait for something to happen and then move to symbolically oppose it); in other words, we need to move beyond the tactics of ‘reactive defencism’ and move cautiously towards tactical and if possible strategic offensive as and when possible.We should mark these words of Gramsci, “Fascism has never manoeuvred…when faced with a massive movement in the streets. Rather, it waited to move until working-class organization had entered a period of passivity and then fell upon it, striking it as such, not for what it “did” but for what it “was”…” (Democracy and Fascism, 1924)
- Finally, the revolutionary Communists must resist every Fascist attack on civil and democratic rights. Lenin had emphasized again and again that on the one hand, the revolutionary Communist politics must expose the illusions of bourgeois democracy and show to the common working masses that it is actually the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, while at the same time, it must defend each and every civil and democratic right that has been won by a class struggle in which the working class made equal and perhaps greater sacrifices than the bourgeoisie. Moreover, he also stressed upon the fact that bourgeois democracy is the best battle ground for proletarian class struggle. Therefore, in the present Fascist rise, where unlike the Twentieth century European Fascism, the form of parliamentary bourgeois democracy is not openly changed into dictatorship, though the content of this bourgeois democracy becomes more and more like a dictatorship, we need to oppose the gradual Fascist destruction of civil and democratic rights and liberties as well as make the working class particularly conscious of the need to defend these rights. Lukacs had rightly warned against the “left” tendency of not understanding the importance of defending the civil and democratic rights inch-by-inch and preparing for some ultimate and decisive future class struggle. The shrinking democratic space will make it even more difficult to organize the working class. So, the lack of committed fight against the Fascist onslaught on civil and democratic rights will ultimately also disarm the revolutionary Communist forces as well as the working class.
- In Lieu of Conclusion
These are some of the basic points of present anti-Fascist proletarian strategy that we are proposing. This is not an exhaustive list of all the things that can be and should be done. In making this humble proposal, we have focused, in the main, on the changes that must be introduced in the Communist strategy, in accordance with the fundamental changes in the nature of Fascism in the era of neoliberal globalization and in view of the peculiarity of Hindutva Fascism. Obviously, there are many tasks that can be added to this proposal and it would only enrich this proposal. However, the above tasks are, in our opinion, the most fundamental tasks of the revolutionary working class and Communist movement today, in the face of rising tide of Fascism. We cannot afford to let it become irresistible. Though, under Modi, we are witnessing a Fascist regime; however, it would be a suicidal mistake to take it as the final paroxysm of Hindutva Fascism. If something unpredictable and unlikely does not happen (like Fascist seizure of power, formal and complete suspension of democratic rights and imposition of a state of exception before the 2019 elections), then at least at present it seems more probable that Modi will lose in the next elections, though such predictions/assessments often change and we should not forget that Modi has still got 3 years left. However, if Modi loses the next election, it will not be the final defeat of Fascism. We might see another period of Congress-led coalition or Congress’s government for one or two terms (which is the best parallel of Weimer period that the post-colonial backward Indian capitalism can witness in the era of neoliberal globalization). However, any such period always ends in a political crisis exacerbated by economic crisis, which has become a permanent feature of late capitalist system. In the absence of revolutionary alternative, resulting from the failure of revolutionary Communists, this will ultimately lead to even more intensified Fascist reaction. Every crisis produces dual potentialities: the reactionary as well as the revolutionary. Which potentiality will be realized?It depends on the relative preparations of the revolutionary jacobins (using this epithet in the Leninist vein) as well as the reactionary jacobins.Daniel Guerin had famously said, “Fascism will be our punishment if we let the moment of Socialism pass.” Though it cannot be applied strictly today; however, historically this statement is still true.
Therefore, whatever trajectory the Indian bourgeois democracy takes in the next few years, the revolutionary Communist forces should strategize against Fascism, make feverish preparations against Fascism and brace themselves for decisive battles of the future.
By the end of the 1960s, capitalism was again facing the problem of over-production and over-accumulation. Robert Brenner shows how the emergence of new capitalist economies in the 1960s and increased competition led to lowering of wages and use of advanced technologies to minimize the cost-price. This increased international competition finally led to over-capacity of the manufacturing sector according to Brenner, leading to profit squeeze of sorts and pressure on prices. The corporations responded to this crisis by freezing investments on new plants, machinery and additional labor; by massive wage cuts, snatching away the employment security and attacking workers’ organization, in which they have been aided by governments; by offshoring which allows them to exploit cheapest labor with most advanced technologies; and finally by turning towards financial services, especially consumer lending, leading to unprecedented financialization of world capitalist economy. According to Andrew Kliman and Brenner, this process had started towards the beginning of the 1960s. However, the capitalist economies managed to avert the impending crisis by debt-financing and tax-cuts for some time. Such piece-meal measures were bound to fail. The 1990s saw the first instance of creation of asset price bubbles through low interest rates, termed by Brenner as asset-price Keynesianism. In the late-1990s, dot-com bubble was created by inflation of stock prices; however, profits did not grow according to the equities prices, they actually fell leading to the crisis of 2000-2001. In 2002 Alan Greenspan, introduced super-low interest rates leading to unprecedented increase in assets prices. Such bubbles led to short-lived increase in spending and consumption. But in the absence of any general rise in employment and wages, such bubbles were destined to burst leading to ever deeper crises. Same happened after the subprime mortgage crisis leading to the most serious recession after the 1930s.
[ii]Besides Dimitrov, there were other Marxists also who pondered over the question of united front. Lukacs in his ‘Blum Theses’ written in 1929 had also proposed a ‘People’s Front’ against Fascism in Hungary in which he argued for the establishment of people’s democratic dictatorship. This proposal did not go beyond the bourgeois democratic class content of the revolution, because of the need for radical land reforms in Hungary alongside a socialist program in Industry.
[iii]In the late-19th and early-20th century, Anarchism existed as a strong trend within the working class movement, especially in Italy and Spain. It was a working class radical tendency of Anarchism. In India, Anarchism exists as a peripheral intellectual trend within the campus and intellectual centres. It is virtually absent as a separate tendency in the working class movement. In the absence of a tradition of revolutionary anarchism, it is very unlikely that in the fight against Hindutva Fascism, anarchists will ever become a force to reckon with.
[iv]In fact, the success of Narendra Modi was particularly due to the phenomenal performance of BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where they increased 90 seats. If we subtract this increase, then BJP comes down to the tally of 2009 elections! The success in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had two reasons. First was the swing of peasant castes towards Hindutva and the second was the swing of a large chunk of dalit and poor OBC vote to Hindutva. In Haryana too, this fact was evident.
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(Presented at different places in the US and Canada)