Sankar Ray is a senior journalist who has worked in various news and current affairs magazines, has spawned scores of good journalists and has in-depth knowledge of global issues, especially Left politics in India and abroad
India at the present historical juncture has been inebriated by an increasingly toxic chauvinism, a populist drug, aptly identified by the Pakistani journalist and political commentator Zarrar Khuhro as an activity ‘increasingly and actively being radicalised by a right-wing ruling elite, which has its divisive messages amplified by a shrill right-wing media owned by corporations that are close to the ruling party” - Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) . Each arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), including the BJP, is unmistakably Fascist, notwithstanding the stupidly obstinate (if not intellectually naïve) assertions by ideologues of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and his predecessor Prakash Karat that it’s ‘fascistic’ and not Fascism.
The problem with hoary-headed ‘Marxist’ ideologues is their parrot-like understanding of Fascism. They blindly adhere to the definition of Euro-centric Fascism, defined by Georgi Mikhailovich Dimitrov, secretary-general of the Communist International in the late 1930s, as the “open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” Let’s not get into the labyrinthine lemma or an etymological eerie in the nightmarish crisis facing us. But India is yet to witness an open terroristic dictatorship of finance capital, although we are constantly encircled by a semi-dictatorial ruling combine which is extremely reactionary and Hindu chauvinist, and instead of finance capital, a few crony capitalist groups are committed to demolish the self-reliant economic endeavour that kept Indian economy alive and inching ahead.
The tragedy is that India’s largest Leftist (official Marxist, rather Stalinist) political Party, the CPI(M) fails to realise the aesthetic dimension of Fascist – or, more generally, authoritarian – regime and becomes irrelevant to get lost in a plethora of absurdities. Its cerebra fail to see that the clog in the wheel for all who confront Fascism, or whatever, is a sanguinary reality. For the increasingly decimated comity of armchair revolutionaries, it is futile to suggest to them to widen the barricade by maximised mobilisation, as felt by those in Europe and America.
Daniel Bessner and Udi Greenberg’s essay, “The Weimar Analogy” in Jacobin magazine is an eye-opener. They draw a parallel between the US President Donald Trump and the Third Reich. Permit me to quote from it.
“Trump’s support, after all, comes in large part from postindustrial dislocation, a socioeconomic condition completely alien to the industrial, class-based, and war-traumatised Germany of the 1920s and 1930s. More substantially, Trump’s ideology — if one can call a smattering of contradictory claims a coherent ideology — excludes some of Fascism’s classic features. Trump, after all, rarely invokes the language of blood and soil, the transcendental and rejuvenating experience of war, or explicit opposition to electoral institutions and politics. The debate over whether Trump counts as a fascist may seem pedantic, but its consequences for progressive thought are anything but. When we see America as Weimar and Trump as Hitler, we risk repeating past mistakes.”
Eric D Weitz, distinguished Professor of History and the former Dean of Humanities and Arts at The City College of New York appropriately noted: “Historical analogies are always fraught.” It will be suicidal to be oblivious of the Nazi horror. The new feature is “the process by which traditional and radical conservatives came together through a common language”, plus “numerous warning signals “ that bucks up “ the surge of right-wing populism from Poland across the continent, on to the United Kingdom, and across the ocean to the United States,” quipped Weitz, adding a cautionary note: “free nations must view all dictatorial movements as existential threats. Democracy, they argued, cannot coexist with the enemy; extremist radicals have to be actively destroyed. According to Weitz’s logic, “our generation must embrace these sentiments to resist Trump’s fascist takeover”.
The dress rehearsal of Fascism, neo-Fascism and far-right extremism, being witnessed today in the largest segment of the South Asian subcontinent is ‘non-Eurocentric’, formidably argued Benjamin Zachariah, faculty of the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg and formerly with the Presidency University, Kolkata, in a paper, ‘A Voluntary Gleichschaltung? A non-Eurocentric Understanding of Fascism’. This is mutated further from what Jawaharlal Nehru described as ‘majoritarian communalism’, the vehicle of Indian variant of Fascism. In his Autobiography written when he was imprisoned at the Ahmednagar Jail in 1936, he slammed organised religion:
“The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere has filled me with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seems to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation, and the preservation of vested interests.”
But Nehru did not spare minority communalism either. He found in communalism “a striking resemblance to the various forms of Fascism in other countries’ while in the Indian version of Fascism he spotted “evils and disasters that have resulted from the communal conflict. A combination of these two is thus something that can only bring grave perils and disasters in its train”.
May be, the humanimalistic nature of State and its increasingly aggressive pose is beyond the Nehruvian imagination, amply reflected in the menacing cow-vigilantism in the social life and academic barbarism which is virulently exhibited at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, but all this happens under the juggernaut of majoritarian communalism.
Gleichschaltung, (bringing all political, economic, and social institutions under a single command under an authoritarian state to stamp out dissent or freedom in all areas of life alike the Nazi ideology.) appropriately elaborated by Zachariah, carries “very specific normative overtones that are associated with the Nazi state in particular; it is a process of appropriation from above by means of special legislation and through the use of state power”.
A ‘voluntary Gleichschaltung’, Zachariah added,”might seem like a contradiction in terms; but the use of the oxymoron indicates that an international recognition of the affinities and possibilities of working together predated the existence of Fascist states”. He suggests alternatives like ‘fascist Zeitgeist” that disseminate conspiracy theories and promote right-wing libertarian political ideology and diverts people’s energies and attention away from solving real problems in the real world. Together they develop the ‘fascist syncretism’ as discrete strands and movements to one another.
Christopher Bollus, British psychoanalyst and author of “Meaning and Melancholia: Life in the Age of Bewilderment”, has provoked a debate on the new features of Fascism in the frame of the world order of neo-liberal finance capital that has been engulfing India, Myanmar and many other countries.
The treatment meted out to at least four million inhabitants in Assam, rendered worse-than-persona non grata in the name of updating of the National Register of Citizens under the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, tabled in Parliament on July 2016, is a direct assault on the libertarian basics of our democracy. Pitiably enough, the entire invasion against the universal human rights is patronised and supervised by the Supreme Court of India. The social fabric of the sensitive and strategic northeastern state of India is torn apart as these hapless people, whose patriotic commitment was proved repeatedly, are pushed to a penumbra of insecurity, uncertainty and trauma, and most of them belong to Franz Fanon’s definition of the ‘wretched of the earth’. A parallel barbarism has been the protracted traumatising of the Rohingyas in neighbouring Myanmar.
The ferocious rightism is an international phenomenon, the neo-liberal totalitarian power, escalates the world over, with a mammoth strategy to rake up colonialism hybridising with barbarism to create a regime of enslavement. Like Fascism, the ascendant rightism aims at confusion and simplification of the ideological, theological, and cultural perceptions as a sequel to the failure of the Enlightenment view of man to comprehend human existence.
While the Enlightenment had partly emphasised the integrity of individual man, twentieth-century Fascism extolled the virtue of the state, an organic creation driven by the militant will of the masses in contrast to ‘the federal republic encumbered by checks and balances dividing power so that the people remained individually free to speak their minds in a pluralistic society’.
Which is why in the Middle-East, Africa, South and Central America and elsewhere the principal aim is to exploit vast populations, turning a blind eye to continued colonial activities. Bollus states with a sense of self-abnegation: “I liken us to the Nazi occupation of Europe. The US and Western governments are hated by most of the rest of the world population and hated for good reason. My point is that we have destroyed people. The destroyed, driven mad by us — and their own leaders who are our puppets — are now the return of the oppressed. We are now to pay a huge price for more than 50 years of such oppression.”
Torture is outsourced – a glaring instance being Guantanamo— along with a wide variance of criminal activities. Islamophobia is unquestionably blameworthy in no uncertain terms but in practice, it is an alibi for unleashing torture without bounds.
Islamophobia is not just a Western phenomenon. It has been whipped up to unimaginable levels in India by the RSS-BJP combine. “When the cartoons stirred up Islam, they did indeed rouse the insane. If we are not responsible for the entire history of their descent into madness, we discovered them in this condition and we have exploited them, which is a very grave crime against tens of millions of people,” the social psychoanalyst puts it ingenuously.
The ‘teeming millions’ are compressed in psychophobia; a fear of the mind and a rejection of depth psychologies even in the West, the reflex of which are the victory of Trump in America and Brexit in the United Kingdom. Literary giants such as Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Franz Fanon had envisioned this as they felt deeply disturbed by this traumatisation.
Rohit Chopra, associate professor of communication at Santa Clara University, University, USA, and author of “Technology and Nationalism in India: Cultural Negotiations from Colonialism to Cyberspace” in a commentary in the Hong Kong-based morninger South China Morning Post, strongly indicted the World Hindu Congress in Chicago, ostensibly held as a homage to Swami Vivekananda for his historic speech 125 years ago, a speech that set the space for a civilisational dialogue between Hinduism and the West.
Professor Chopra cautioned that the intention of the global Hindutva jamboree was “aestheticisation of symbols of power in fascist regimes – such as the exquisitely choreographed columns of the faithful hailing Hitler in the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will – is to make violence palatable, comprehensible, and even attractive of such regimes. Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Robert Mugabe all fit this bill, so did a gathering of Hindus from around the globe at the World Hindu Congress”.
Ever since the hukumat of BJP-led federal government came to power with Narendra Modi as the premier in 2014 “an unofficial government scheme of targeting minorities has been well under way in India. Lynching of Muslims by vigilante Hindu groups on the pretext of possessing beef, a crime in numerous Indian states given the sacred status of the cow for many Hindus; assaults on Dalits, in the lower rung of the caste hierarchy of Hinduism, and a strident jingoism stoked by openly partisan state officials and media persons, have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissenting voices in the academic, artistic, and activist communities”, Chopra asserted.
Shankar Gopalakrishnan in an essay in Monthly Review, published a decade ago, identified the rise of the aggressive right alongside the “simultaneous rise of two reactionary political projects, Hindutva and neoliberalism, to a position of dominance in India”, an allotropic manifestation of hyper-nationalism of the ‘bureaucratic-authoritarian’ dictatorships in Latin America, the implicit racism and jingoism of Thatcher and Reagan, etc. ”The distinctive feature of Hindutva,” he rightly spotted, is “a predominantly cultural-ideological phenomenon” in order to “to divert attention from class conflict, to divide and weaken the working class struggles and to deflect class-driven anxieties on to minority communities”.
Four decades ago, the then RSS sarsanghchalak, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, penned, “We may have to use sanctions of force also in our endeavour.” For ‘outsiders’ (meaning the minorities) he dictated an option: “They can swear allegiance to Hindutva and join the society, or they can retain their beliefs, thereby confirming their foreignness, as if fit for self-destruction.”
Mind you, Hindutva is not mainly an elite offensive but an antidote to the subaltern mobilisations of Dalits or regional parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party. It has considerably delegitimised class and caste struggle and instead promoted notions of’ ‘harmony’.
If the BJP returns to power in the parliamentary elections in 2019, Hindu Fascism will be far more devastative. Remember the patronisation of eugenics during the Nazi era in Germany and various antisemitic programmes of euthanasia and death camps, having resorted to the reduction of non-Aryan children, through injection with genetic diseases and disorders.
‘Eugenics’ was coined by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin and an accomplished scientist in his own right, with the motto of improving the human race by getting rid of the “undesirables” and multiplying the “desirables.”