Fascism In The Indian Context, A Perspective Approach
By T.G. Jacob
24 March, 2014
Sixth Rajesh Kumar Memorial speech
Photo Credit/The Hindu
Fascism as a historical-political ideology of social management continues to be extremely nebulous in our days too. In fact its variety is such that, in spite of not having any serious systemically rooted political philosophy, fascism continues to manifest in uglier and uglier forms and contents; its nebulousness itself throws its apologists into psychopathic reactions which can sink to any levels of dishonesty and cruelty.
The point is that fascism as a political manifestation of structural distortions framed in the dialectical movement of history becomes a political counter current which has to be understood in its local habitat. This is so because its sheer nebulousness, which directly implies variety, is immensely adapted to the needs of today's global capital. I am not saying that it is a mirror image syndrome.
Fascism as an articulated political bid for power, as it came up in Western Europe during the inter-World War period is yet to be fully analyzed in all its complexity. The Left was severely handicapped in analyzing concretely because globally it had concretized its own variant of fascism, otherwise known as social fascism. It was a give-and-take relationship between the social fascists and national socialists, more prominently displayed in identical organizational forms. These organizational forms covered both the cadre system and secret police.
Inter-War Soviet Union, social fascism created a sub working class working to death at the lowest possible sustenance compensation. The primary economic goal was to maximize accumulation whatever is the social cost.
How this social fascism spread out through the world as a universalized model through the Communist International impacted the colonial/semi colonial world is best shown by the experience of Algeria, Vietnam, Spain, Greece, and India.
Many partial explanations were provided like the psychologically precipitating aspect of the national humiliation of Germany resulting from defeat in the First War, the increasing power of the German capitalists during the interwar years and its structural need for more resources and space, the failure of the social democrats in stemming the tide of popular misery etc, etc. These scholarly pedantic exercises are still continuing even with bigger ambiences. In fact, scholars like Wilhelm Reich and Eric Fromm opened up a new branch of social science which is known as psychology of fascism.
It was through the application of the science of psychology that two dominant versions of twentieth century fascism – national socialism and social fascism – could be reconciled to be basically one and the same in terms of human behavior.
Getting to our concrete situations, we are the self-proclaimed greatest democracy on the planet but with proven aptitudes and political will to change over to explicitly fascist manipulations and modes of governance of a fascinating variety. The diversity of the country is so glaring that it has created its own variants of fascist governance. Its operations can be locationaly limited, against one or the other minority communities, it can be against the left militants, or it can be against the Adivasis and Dalits defending their soil and honor.
The formation of the country itself was steeped in the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people and the biggest forced migration in the history of the century. In India, these communal riots never actually came to a stop; they were always there after 1947. Likewise, caste oppression and atrocities continue all over India.
The most widespread fascist onslaught today in India is the ceaseless attempts to alienate the land from the tribals and forest dwellers of central India into the hands of the corporate capital. This has led to the formation of vigilante armies who ruled by sheer terror. Currently vast areas predominantly the habitats of tribals who have a long history of rebellion are having a dual system of power with the paramilitary on one side and the Maoist guerillas on the other. There is common agreement among the prominent political formations on the need to dispossess the tribals so that a high growth rate can be achieved for corporate capital.
Indian form of concentration camps in the tribal areas of central India is a typically original idea. Strictly speaking, they are not labor camps but isolation camps. The expectation is that once the pacification process is concluded a highly regimented cheap labor market can function from the isolation villages. It is a dream alright, but a dream of the corporate bourgeoisie.
Land alienation for mega projects is at ever time high. Example of the Odisha government. More than 250 mega projects, most of them mining, are already signed without any serious thinking on human and environmental cost. The situation is ditto with the other states in the region and wherever large scale mining is possible. This is an Indian form of fascism already in full action. The mineral rich regions are competitively involved in this sale deed. The mining lobby is so powerful that even proclaimed, dissenting, mass reading journalists can be bought off.
What happens to the millions of displaced?
Suspension of Constitutional rights in selected areas has become regular in the sub continent. A significant exception in the post 47 history is implementation of Internal Emergency in 1975.This countrywide suspension of civil and democratic rights was the product of severe internal contradictions finding expression in mass form.
There is a current viewpoint that internal emergency was brought forth at the instigation of Soviet Union to eliminate the strong attempts of its rival camp to wean India away from its pro Soviet stance. Of course, rival imperialists will try to intervene when there is a crisis. But it is quite different thing to say the crisis was created by them.
On the one hand, the Bangladesh military action was only a partial success. It succeeded in dismembering Pakistan which meant a serious blow to West Pakistan ruling lobbies due to the loss of a fertile field of operation. However, this had the impact of making the atmosphere in the sub continent extremely vicious resulting in hyper speed competitive arms race including nuclear arms race. But the greater objective of converting the new country as a backyard failed. Bangladesh refused to become even a satellite. This was a serious blow to the Indian capital looking for outside areas of domination.
Throughout the late sixties and early seventies the Naxalite movement had continued to be a serious threat to the status quo. The very fact that it created several base areas where a dual system of power existed for fairly long periods of time and that their urban guerillas necessitated widespread fascist vigilante groups helping out the military and paramilitary to control a big metro shows very clearly the dimensions of the Naxalite threat. In spite of serious setbacks the Naxalite ideology and image remained very potent.
Yet another serious contradiction was the rise of autocracy as means of crisis management and the complementary rise of illegal activities and corruption by those in authority. Kitchen cabinets and coteries were steadily rising in power well before June 1975. This resulted in huge movements in western and northern India against corruption and mismanagement. This discontent on the streets had reached ominous proportions before the declaration of emergency. Thus it is clear that a number of causative factors led to this brief effort at absolute centralization with a docile people. This effort could not be concretized mainly because the responses were getting very unpleasant for those in power.
The principal slogan advanced was “talk less, work more”. What were its actual and perceived implications? Peace and obedience in the factories, services and countryside is most ideal for capital accumulation though it need not be so. A regimented, unquestioning people was considered the necessary condition for moving ahead.
If the emergency regime was an all-India phenomenon and it had to be withdrawn, it did not at all mean that fascist management methods were abandoned. In fact, the effort was geared to more pragmatic and effective means of containment and neutralization. The obvious attempts in the efforts of this kind that come to mind are Punjab and Assam. Assam was an ancient kingdom of the epic period. The Sikhs have a history of an empire which the British conquered in their last major conquest through wars, and a virile young religion. Before 1947 they had demanded Sikhistan when the British departure had become a sure possibility.
In the case of Assam the problem was immensely accentuated by the Delhi government itself. The colonial policy of encouraging resettlement of overcrowded East Bengali peasantry got a boost due to the Bangladesh war which gave it a religious dimension and distorted manifestation of communal killings. The problem is by no means over, but newer dimensions are in charge.
Both these regions have a history of conquest. What the militants in Punjab were demanding are actually old demands bordering on self determination, which developed into armed confrontation, attack on the golden temple, and declaration of martial law in the whole state. But the issue did not end there. It resulted in the assassination of the prime minister and large scale pogroms in large areas of north India targeting the Sikh institutions, men, women and children. This was organized by responsible leaders of the ruling party with the able connivance of law and order and public sector service providers. This was a distinct form of fascism participated in by large number of lumpen youth. The message was loud and clear: if the Sikhs in Punjab rebel there will be no Sikhs in the rest of India and within Punjab itself you will be made into second class citizens.
84 Riots in Delhi (?)
The reaction to an enquiry report titled “Who are the Guilty?” prepared and published by the executive committees of Peoples Union of Democratic Rights and Peoples Union of Civil Liberties was symptomatic of the fascist psyche of the ruling party. This report pinpointed the leaders of the pogrom in Delhi with enough proofs for any court of law. But the reaction of the ruling party members in Parliament was to howl for putting the entire teams in jail for serious security reasons!
Fascism has always wanted an “other” to justify its bid for power. In Germany the “other” started with the communists and anarchists and gypsies then embraced the social democrats and the minorities in a swift manner. In India the “other” is identified as the religious minorities, tribals, and all people who believe in social justice. While the most outspoken representatives are openly bidding for political power on this basis other mainstream political parties are quite familiar with one or the other fascist strategies and have proved themselves capable of wielding power in the same manner. This is true of the ruling party, the strongly aspiring Hindutva party, as well as social democratic parties who are also national parties on account of their all India trade unions.
To identify the Hindu right wing with fascism is not correct, and hence is dangerous too. Fascism has no coherent, straight-jacketed ideology. There is a cacophony of voices and the organized Hindu right wing's voice is the loudest. They have loudly announced their strategy through the Gujarat riots, Babri Mazjid demolition and related massacres. When a top aide of the Gujarat chief minister was sent to Uttar Pradesh to build up the Bharatiya Janatha Party the impact was immediate and loud - Muzzafarnagar killings of Muslims. In other words, exporting the Gujarat model.
The most significant achievement for the Gujarat rulers is the ghettoization of more than ten percent of the population on purely communal lines. This is an active process of creating second class citizens who don't have the same rights as the others. Elections or no elections this section is not going to dilute their platform because that is their very rationale of existence. They have no other alternatives before them. Expansion of the Gujarat experience is and has to be the declared goal.
Social democrats are one bloc that is always harping on the dangers of communal fascism by which they mean the Hindu right wing against the religious minorities. But this is only one variant of fascism. Social democrats themselves, when they are in power in the states, are very much capable of resorting to fascist methods. Also the pioneering social democratic party actively collaborated with the internal emergency regime. And the reasons can also be the same. Singur and Nandigram are illustrations. It was for facilitating land grabbing by the corporate lobby that the social democrats became out-rightly fascist. There is nothing to prove that they will not behave the same when the need arises. Hence their talk about communal fascism is not only intellectual hoodwinking when they themselves enjoy only minimum credibility.
Nandigram and Singur were also anti-minority. It so happened that the lands the had a good section of Muslim peasantry. The ideology of promoting productive forces at the expense of the primary sector is a well tested one with the social democrats.
It is also to be noted that within the last decade Gujarat has emerged as the darling of Indian big capital that is a partner of international capital. The single biggest reason for this love is the easy availability of land as a factor of production. A government that has come to power through large scale killings is also very effective in procuring land for big capital. The overall fascist atmosphere constitutes the atmosphere. Why the Hindu right wing is sword sharp on the Narmada project becomes self evident in the context of this aggressive globalization. After land, power is the main requirement.
The North East, like Kashmir, is a long standing internal contention which has made these areas war zones with time variations. In fact, the Nehru government conducted aerial bombing in the hills of Nagaland during the early sixties in the military efforts to exterminate the Naga militants. Since then nationalism based militant ideology has spread to the entire region including Assam.
The occupied status of the North East as well as Kashmir directly means fascist governance. That is why the big businesses now want more than seventy medium, large and mega dams to generate electricity on the Brahmaputra river. Big businesses can hold shares in the power generation and withdrew or sell their share of power as they like. A sort of electricity bank. Of course, the electricity generated is not for the people of the north east. It is meant for the big businesses elsewhere. Simultaneously large scale mining is going on in many hill ranges. All this is possible because the whole region is under jack boots. So the resources spent on security and corruption is paying well for the corporate. The area is sanitized in military terms, which means any democratic space is something to be fought for. For how long, we don't know.
Ecological fascism within overall fascism. All the dams that are under actual and planned construction are worked on tunnels to carry water to the generators. Where do the vast debris go? Where else but into the river itself? The fourth biggest riverine system on the planet is being recklessly destroyed by the two biggest countries of Asia- China by diverting part of the water flow to its water starved northern regions, and India by building unscientific dams during the rest of its way.
As we talked earlier land and other resources grabbing has become a mania for corporate capital and this is undoubtedly leading steadily to increasing violations of basic human rights of the people and institutionalization of coercive modes of governance which is all that fascism is about. Large areas of the country are already under highly arbitrary methods of governance. As far as the Hindu right wing is concerned their agenda is to bring the whole country under this condition. Politically the entire ruling mechanism is geared to fascist take over on the larger scale. And all of them have time and again proved capable on this count.
TG Jacob is associated with the Communist movement from his student days and edited the radical journal Massline in the 1980's. He disassociated organisationally from Maoist movement in the early 1990s and currently focused on writing on a variety of issues. An economist by academic training Mr. Jacob is known for the work India: Development and Deprivation, a pioneering study tracing the neo-colonial trajectory of the Indian economy after the transfer of power in 1947. Other Socially and politically acclaimed works by Jacob included Chaos in Nation Formation: Case of Punjab, Tales of Tourism from Kovalam, Wayanad- Misery in an Emerald Bowl, Alcohol and Kerala, Reflections on the Caste Question - The Dalit Situation in South India and Left to Right: Decline of Communism in India.
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