Archive for September, 2016

Hindutva: The Riddle of Fascism.

18 September 2016

Prakash Karat is an ideologue and influential leader of the largest leftist party in India -CPI(M). He recently posited in an article in @IndianExpress, Fight against BJP cannot be conducted in alliance with the other major party of the ruling classes: “A correct understanding of the ruling regime and the political movement that it represents is necessary because it has a direct bearing on the political strategy and electoral tactics to be followed in order to fight the BJP and the Modi government”. The other major party of the ruling classes is obviously Congress (INC) with whom his CPI(M) cohabited by lending outside support to UPA-I government. In effect Karat pleads that Congress need not or should not be made part of Anti-BJP/RSS coalition. He then identifies the political challenge faced thus:

“In India today, Hindutva ideology and chauvinist nationalism are used to polarise the people on communal lines and to attack religious minorities. Brutal methods are used to suppress the religious minorities; dissent and secular intellectuals are sought to be put down by branding them “anti-national.” From above, at the level of the institutions of the state, and from below, through the outfits of the Hindutva brigade, a determined effort is being made to reorder society and polity on Hindutva lines.”

But, then fights shy of calling it fascist because “While these activities pose a grave and present danger to democracy and secularism, they do not, by themselves, constitute the establishment of a fascist order”. What else is needed to make the ‘Neo-Liberal+Communal Authoritarianism (NLCA)’ of BJP, which is how he identifies it, Fascist? At one place he says NCLA “hollows out parliamentary democracy”, but still maintains it “can be imposed on a system where formal democracy and elected governments exist”. Such contradictory notions can seat comfortably with only those, who are inured to motions of casting a vote for the only candidate in the fray.  The “true” test of fascism for Karat is the “classic definition” fashioned by the Comintern:

“Fascism in power is “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.””.

Fascism is not in power today in India. True. But, even in Germany fascism existed before it came to full power in 1933. Where and how did fascism reside when not in power? Or did it spontaneously manifest in power without any antecedents? Nazis and Communists had won more than 50% of the seats in 1930’s election; and Communists at that time “openly announced that they would prefer to see the Nazis in power rather than lift a finger to save the republic” {Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, p138. ISBN 1-56852-036-0}. Does this have echoes in Karat’s India? Apart from Communalism {anti-minority}, BJP/RSS share features of “extreme nationalism”, “pan-Hinduism (pan-Germanism)” with  Nazis. Responding to the unrealistic and dogmatic stress laid on “material conditions (crisis of finance capital)”, Jairus Banaji wrote: “Before fascism succeeds as a state it exists as a movement. And fascism only succeeds in seizing power because it first succeeds as a mass movement” {see:Stalin’s Ghost Won’t Save Us from the Spectre of Fascism }. If one ignores the unnecessary & avoidable ad hominem repartees, Banaji’s response has much to commend.

“To suggest that fascism is largely or entirely about ‘finance capital’, that a handful of bankers could have created the fascist movements in Germany and Italy shows how detached dogma can become from reality when it ignores the formation of culture and looks simply at the economy as a force that affects politics without mediations of any sort.

Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, Islamism, Hindutva, patriarchy, male violence, caste oppression, militarism, and (not least!) nationalism then become basically irrelevant; window-dressing on a beast (capitalism) that works in some purely economic way, as if the ‘formation of the authoritarian structure’ (Reich) which has everything to do with how reactionary ideologies come about in the wider reaches of civil society is not a process every bit as material as the economy.”

Shamsul Islam in Prakash Karat Unable To Locate Fascism In Hindutva, digs deftly into the Genetic makeup of RSS to lay bare it’s Racist Soul (Brahmanic Supremacist) conflating with Nazi’s ideal of “Aryan Race’.

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“Today experiments in cross-breeding are made only on animals. But the courage to make such experiments on human beings is not shown even by the so-called modern scientist of today. If some human cross-breeding is seen today it is the result not of scientific experiments but of carnal lust. Now let us see the experiments our ancestors made in this sphere. In an effort to better the human species through cross-breeding the Namboodri Brahamanas of the North were settled in Kerala and a rule was laid down that the eldest son of a Namboodri family could marry only the daughter of Vaishya, Kashtriya or Shudra communities of Kerala. Another still more courageous rule was that the first off-spring of a married woman of any class must be fathered by a Namboodri Brahman and then she could beget children by her husband. Today this experiment will be called adultery but it was not so, as it was limited to the first child”. -Golwalkar to students and faculty of the School of Social Science of Gujarat University on December 17, 1960; reported in Organizer, January 2, 1961.

What makes fascism special and more devastating case of authoritarianism is the way they seek to reorder and refashion society. Fascism mobilises masses through fear mongering or -phobias, imagines & targets the “enemies” within, advocates muscular foreign policy, pursues supremacist concepts (of racial/cultural/religious/ or glorious past), promotes “fierce” nationalism, and harbours pretensions to or seeks to maintain imperial power. While fascism like authoritarianism may use state machinery once in power to ruthlessly crush dissent, it also mobilises it’s goon squads or loyal cadres to do the hatchet jobs whether in power or on the way to it.  Moreover, control of society is wrought not just through Power and Prisons, but through sophisticated Propaganda & Awe. However, for fascism to succeed society needs to have pre-existing homogeneous block with sufficient numerical strength for it’s ‘propaganda-control’ war to succeed in forging the core or nucleus.  Fascism advances it’s defining ideas in binaries: We Vs They, Good Vs Evil or Moral Vs Amoral.  “Hindus” are what RSS/BJP want to forge into that Nucleus. But, Hindus are not a homogeneous block. Hindus speak in many tongues, Hindus pray to different gods, Hindus have many beliefs -often contradictory, Hindus follow varied cultural practices, Hindus have varied dietary preferences -not seldom mutually irreconcilable, Hindus’ marriage rituals differ, Hindus follow different leaders -political/social/religious, and Hindus are cleaved into numerous castes. Binary propaganda fails to bridge this complex and multi-dimensional divide. What may, if, eventually stop fascism’s advance to power is this Multi-Identity Hindu rather than the absence of mortal-crisis of the finance capital. RSS/BJP recognise this formidable obstacle to creating a Hindu-Rashtra and therefore seek to establish a unitary Hindu-Church by appealing to hoary Vedic-Dharma & by denying the vibrant plurality in Hindu faith and falsifying it’s histories.

Here is an interesting exercise to discover how successful RSS/BJP are in their march to fascist control by honestly judging, which of the following defining characteristics of fascism they have managed to meet: “Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism By Dr. Lawrence Britt”. Do this exercise to gain far-reaching insights for USA and NATO-States too including Turkey, which found mention in Karat’s argument.

Begin Test

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights – Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause – The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military – Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism – The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media – Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security – Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined – Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected – The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed – Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts – Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment – Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption – Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections – Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

PS: India may have had a secular Constitution in spirit, but Indian state lived up to it only nominally. If Hindutva is on the rise today, it is because it always incubated among most high-caste Hindus at least on two counts at the minimum: (1) Othering of Muslims and Christians and (2) Caste Supremacy {read The TM Krishna column: ‘I’m upper-caste and I’m proud of it – and that’s where the problem lies’}.  Therefore, the blame for it’s rise spreads far and wide.

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