P J James
BJP with 180 million-membership (as claimed by it in 2019) and wielding India’s state power today is the political tool of RSS, the longest-running and biggest fascist organization in the world. The RSS with Manusmriti as its ideological basis was founded in 1925 with Hedgewar as the first Sarsanghchalka almost at the same time when ‘classical’ fascism appeared in Europe. In the case of India, the decade of the 1920s when RSS originated was a turbulent one that challenged not only the colonial rule but also the feudal order and Brahminical caste system. Inspired by Mahatma Phule and then led by Dr Ambedkar, the ‘untouchable’ Dalits, had started entering into the political mainstream from inaccessible social peripheries. Including this, it was the challenges to the upper caste elite domination that prompted the Brah-min leadership to reassert its hegemony through the formation of RSS.
Before the formation of RSS in 1925, Savarkar had laid down Hindutva, or ‘political Hinduism’ (which is different from Hinduism) as its ideological background. In his manuscript, ‘Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?’, Savarkar had argued that ‘Hindus were a nation unto themselves’, excluding Muslims, Christians and all other minorities in India. After Hedgewar’s death in 1940, Golwalkar who became the second Sarsanghchalka of RSS expanded it as a militant Hindutva organisation with its Manuvad approach to the untouchables together with its commitment towards stigmatization and elimination of Muslims as nation’s principal enemies.
From the very beginning, RSS had its close association with European fascism (classical fascism) that originated in Italy and Germany during the biggest political-economic crisis during the interwar period, and the RSS leadership of that time had established direct contact with fascist Mussolini along with its adulation of Nazi Hitler. For instance, Moonje, the mentor and political guru of Hedgewar, who had visited the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini in 1931 and inspired by the Fascist Academy of Physical Education that trained paramilitary “storm troopers” and goons like Black Shirts, started the Bhonsala Military School in Nasik in 1937 for imparting military training to RSS cadres and Hindutva goons under the management of Central Hindu Military Education Society. Bhonsala School’s links with terrorist actions by Hindutva extremist groups including the 2008 Malegaon blasts are a much discussed topic.
Golwalkar who had high regard for Hitler, upheld the latter’s doctrine of racial purity. He praised the Nazi method of purging the Semitic races, the Jews by Hitler, and even suggested the same as a good lesson for India to resolve the Muslim question. According to the core ideology of RSS or doctrine of Hindurashtra, “Hindus and Hindus alone, constitute the Indian Nation”, whereas for Golwalkar, casteism was synonymous with ‘Hindu Nation’, though India has been historically multi-religious, multilingual, multi-ethnic, multicultural and composed of many nationalities with the inhuman caste system cutting across all these identities. However, as a fascist organisation, RSS from its very inception has been Islamophobic, anti-Christian, anti-communist, anti-woman and anti-Dalit, and has been in the habit of using violence to achieve its objectives.
Under colonial oppression, nationalism and patriotism for the oppressed countries were invariably anti-colonial in essence. But the ‘cultural nationalism’ of RSS was a camouflage for its betrayal of the anti-imperialist struggle. Along with its genocidal hatred towards Muslims, extreme servility to British imperialism has been inherent in RSS from the very beginning. On account of this, it totally dissociated itself from the independence movement during the British period. Top RSS leadership even advised its cadres not to waste their energy fighting the British but save it for fighting ‘internal enemies’ such as Muslims, Christians and Communists. As such, the organization continued to remain on the periphery of Indian politics.
When Constituent Assembly was drafting the Indian Constitution, RSS came forward vehemently opposing the adoption of that Constitution and suggested ‘Manusmriti’ (the sacred book of chaturvarnya or varna system that identified women and Dalits as subhuman) in its place on the ground that a Republican Constitution would give equality to all castes against the interest of the elite castes. In fact, much before its objection to the Constitution that was drafted under the leadership of Ambedkar, the RSS’ mouthpiece, Organiser in August 1947 had opposed the tricolour National Flag also. Of course, following the assassination of Father of the Nation in 1948, the RSS was banned for a few months, and one of the conditions that Sardar Patel put forward for lifting the ban on RSS on July 11 1949 was “loyalty to the Constitution of India and the National Flag”. However, it took more than half-a-century for the RSS to hoist the National Flag during the time of the Vajpayee government which also unveiled Savarkar’s portrait in the central hall of Parliament in 2003.
Obviously, as in the case of European fascism during the interwar period, it is the sharpening of the inherent contradictions and crisis of the ruling system that create the opportune moment for the ascendance of fascists who are the most reactionary sections of corporate capital. In other words, when the crisis cannot be resolved through normal methods of loot and exploitation and when people’s struggles become uncontrollable, the political-economic situation and social tension become favourable for the fascist forces to capture power. As far as India is concerned, it was the crisis of the 1970s and declaration of Emergency by the Indira Gandhi regime that enabled RSS which till then remained outside the mainstream to come to the political limelight.
As is obvious, it was the absence of a progressive-democratic alternative that enabled RSS to effectively utilise the situation to come to the forefront of the anti-Emergency movement. Within no time, replacing the Jan Sangh, RSS constituted BJP as its political tool and the rest is part of contemporary history. Leading hundreds of open, secret and militant organisations and outfits, and widening and deepening its clout across space and time and with its far-right economic philosophy and unwavering allegiance to the US-led imperialist camp, today RSS still claiming itself as a cultural organisation, has grown into the biggest fascist organisation in the world with innumerable overseas saffron extensions and affiliates backed by immense corporate funding.
The sudden shot up of RSS during the recent period spanning half-a-century is to be seen in the broader context of the emergence of global neoliberalism. For, following the advent of the first major postwar crisis called ‘stagflation’, and taking advantage of the ideological-political setbacks of the international Left, the bourgeois state abandoned its welfare mask and resorted to a change in the capital accumulation process through what is called neoliberalism. As noted above, the political-economic crisis that confronted India in the 1970s leading to the proclamation of Emergency by Indira regime in 1975 was integrally linked up with this international context. Though Emergency was lifted in 1977, the post-Emergency period saw Indian state’s abject surrender to neoliberal diktats and intensified neocolonial plunder by imperialist-corporate capital.
It has been in the context of this extremely crisis-ridden period of India resulting in its further integration with global corporate capital and consequent abandoning of the Nehruvian ‘state-led model of development’ and consequent embrace of neoliberal policies that RSS designed its well-thought-out strategy of eventually transforming India into a Hindurashtra, i.e., a Hindutva fascist state by floating BJP as its political party. And, effectively taking advantage of the facilitating role of the soft-Hindutva pursued by the Congress and with immense corporate-backing, it has been easy for RSS to transform BJP as India’s biggest ruling class party within a relatively short span of time, leading to fascist usurpation of state power with its multidimensional repercussions at micro and macro levels integrally linked up with the ascendance of neofascism at the global level.
It is not intended here to draw out the whole trajectory of the process that facilitated RSS to establish its fascist tentacles in the entire political, economic and cultural spheres. Unlike Mussolini-Hitler fascism that suddenly shot up from the political-economic crisis of the 1920s, Indian fascism led by RSS is rooted in a systematic, steady and long drawn out process spanning almost a century with deep-rooted and multi-dimensional penetration into the entire civilian and military apparatuses of the Indian state. And unlike classical fascism which had sharp contradictions with other imperialist forces, Hindutva fascism from the very beginning has been subservient to international finance capital during the colonial and postwar neocolonial period. However, in the neoliberal period, this process has started with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement since the 1980s, demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 in the context of Rao government’s abandoning of Nehruvian model and embrace of far-right neoliberal policies, the ‘second generation of globalisation’ under Vajpayee government in the late 1990s and early 21st century, Gujarat Pogrom in 2002, the ascendancy Modi regime in 2014 and its reiteration as Modi.2 in 2019, which are some of the important milestones towards this neo-fascist transformation.
As is obvious, under Modi.2, in the background of all round privatisation-corporatisation of the economy and saffronisation of both civilian–including constitutional and administrative and institutional spheres and military structures (ranging from RSS initiative to start Military Schools to the Agnipath scheme), RSS is now moving towards its ultimate goal of establishing the Hindurashtra, which is an intolerant theocratic state unequivocally defined by Golwalkar in 1939 in his magnum opus, ‘We, Our Nationhood Defined’ and in conformity with the principles of Manusmriti. All specificities of Hindutva such as anti-Muslimness as manifested in the multi-dimensional discrimination towards Muslim migrants through CAA, Uniform Civil Code, etc., (culminating in, for instance, depicting the Rohingyas whom the UN characterised as “the most persecuted” minority on earth today as “infiltrators”), pan-Indian homogenizing drive of deconstruction and subjugation of the oppressed caste organisations aimed at integrating them into Hindutva, rejection of all values of modernity such as rational-scientific thinking, fostering the cult of tradition and obscurantism, treating dissent and disagreement as treason, worship of heroism and elitism, anti-communism together with uncompromising integration with corporate finance capital are manifestations RSS neofascism.
Neofascism or Fascism Under Neoliberalism
At this critical juncture, concrete understanding of neofascism – i.e., fascism under neoliberalism where old terms and practices connected with fascism have become irrelevant — is indispensable for building up the anti-fascist movement and defeating fascism.
No doubt, fascism’s inseparable integration with the hegemony of most reactionary corporate-finance capital is its universal character. However, ascribing a static form or pattern to the emergence of fascism for all situations is erroneous, and it will impede the building up of anti-fascist struggles too. For instance, in the context of building up the wide Anti-Fascist People’s Front, the 7th Congress of Comintern (1935) that defined fascism in relation to its firm foundations in finance capital, had also underlined different course of development of fascism in colonial and semi-colonial countries where “there can be no question of the kind of fascism that we are accustomed to see in Germany, Italy and other capitalist countries”. That is, depending on the specific political, economic and historical conditions of countries, fascism may assume different forms.
There is a macro dimension to this crucial question today. No doubt, fascism is the government of the most reactionary and terrorist elements of corporate-finance capital directed against the entire progressive-democratic sections, working class, peasantry, oppressed peoples and intelligentsia of the country. However, when ‘classical fascism’ emerged during the interwar years of the 20th century, finance capital or imperialism was in its colonial phase. On the other hand, today in the postwar neocolonial phase, and especially in the neoliberal period today, wealth accumulation is taking place through globalisation or internationalisation of capital as manifested in the limitless and uncontrollable cross-border movement of corporate capital. With the aggravation in the crisis of accumulation since the dawn of the 21st century, and especially since the 2008 “sub-crime crisis’, using the advancements in frontier technologies such as digitisation, global capital is engaged in further shifting of its burden to the shoulders of world people. In this context neofascism is intensified to enforce the tyranny of corporate capital at a global level effectively utilising reactionary, racial, chauvinistic, revivalist, religious fundamentalist, xenophobic and obscurantist ideologies as its political basis, according to the concrete conditions of countries.
Thus, neoliberal fascism or neofascism needs to be analysed with respect to the logic of corporate accumulation today. Of course, globalisation has resulted in a restructure of the erstwhile ‘nation-centred production’ by superimposing a new international division of labour and unleash a worldwide super-exploitation of the working people, thereby temporarily overcoming its crisis of accumulation. On the other, taking advantage of the ideological setbacks of the Left and by utilising the heterogeneity and diversity among working and oppressed people of different countries and through the effective use of a whole set of postmodern ideologies such as “identity politics”, “multiculturalism”, etc., finance capital has also succeeded in creating division among working class and oppressed by diverting attention from corporate plunder thereby disorganising and fragmenting resistance to capital.
Thus, given the internationalisation of capital along with its terribly destructive reactionary essence and decadence, fascism has become transnational in character today. To be specific, unlike ‘classical fascism’ which was specific to capitalist-imperialist countries, neofascism, i.e., fascism under neoliberalism has become global in character cutting across national borders. For instance, a concrete evaluation of the international situation today amply makes it clear that majoritarian religion everywhere is amenable to be used by finance capital as the ideological basis of neofascism (for instance, Evangelism in the Americas, Political Islam in West Asia, Hindutva in India, Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Myanmar). Another example is the manner in which the financial oligarchs of Europe have initiated a pan-European neofascist alliance against workers, migrants and refugees.
Today, neofascists everywhere are working overtime to take advantage of the mass psychology of social and economic insecurity created by the loss of livelihood, employment, habitat and environment arising from corporate plunder as well as people’s loss of faith in mainstream traditional parties including ‘social democrats’ who have no alternative to neoliberal policies. Making use of the specificities of countries, neofascists in general pursue an exclusivist and majoritarian line by propping up the so called ‘homogeneous’ part of the population pitting it against the ‘heterogeneous’ sections often composed of religious, ethnic/racial and linguistic minorities, migrants, refugees, dalits, tribals and other marginalized and oppressed sections of society. Using them an all round depoliticising and social engineering is resorted to prepare a fertile ground for the flourishing of neofascism. In this context, with its own specificities, the BJP regime in India is a typical example of neofascism (corporate-saffron fascism) today. Basing itself in unbridled neoliberal-corporatisation, the Indian regime today is engaged in establishing a Hindu theocratic state or Hindurashtra in accordance with the RSS ideology of aggressive ‘Hindu nationalism’ or Hindutva.
On Building Up the Anti-Fascist Movement
Viewed in this perspective, the antifascist offensive is to be initiated based on the lessons from past experiences but also on the basis of a concrete evaluation of 21st century laws of motion of finance capital in relation to country specificities. Obviously, as already noted, neofascism is the regime of the most reactionary sections of corporate-finance capital under neoliberalism. Therefore, though ruling class/bourgeois parties are basically neoliberal in orientation, all of them are not fascistic and, of course, there are sections who stand for rule of law, bourgeois-democratic rights, freedom of expression and press, free and fair election, etc. However, their class character with roots in neoliberalism and links with corporate capital along with electoral politics as the only sphere of action, make these parties incapable to take initiative in the struggle against fascists who have usurped the entire micro and macro spaces of social life.
Hence, an electoral victory alone is not sufficient as the threat of fascist come-back ( as is evident for the recent neofascist coup attempt in Brazil) will be there until and unless fascist tentacles are wiped out from their already occupied strategic positions. This is so because, along with the control over the organs of the state, the saffron fascists through their vast and unparalleled organisational structure also have established spectacular control over ‘street power’ through lumpen and paramilitary goons. Even when electoral option of challenging fascists through the parliamentary route is theoretically there today, free and fair elections are also becoming increasingly difficult too. Hence mere preoccupation with parliamentary work, devoid of a nation-wide and broad-based anti-fascist people’s movement, cannot confront the fascists, an aspect that the non-fascist ruling class parties often ignore.
Coming to the case of the broad ‘left spectrum’, it ranges from the ‘social democrats’ (e.g., CPI and CPM ) to adventurists (e.g., Maoists). The latter section that does not make a distinction between pro-fascist and non-fascist sections of the ruling classes (fascism for them is a mere change of regime among the ruling classes) fails to put forward an ideological-political position towards the most reactionary and terrorist class essence of neofascism. For the CPM, on the other hand, fascism is yet to come to India, and according to its ideologues, Modi regime is “on the verge of turning fascist” and only “symptoms of fascism” are there.
Here it is to be stated that this evaluation arises from a stereotyped approach to fascism, a way of looking at fascism as a textbook copy of the ‘classical fascism’ of the interwar period. This mechanical approach to neofascism is contrary to the scientific analysis that any social phenomenon when transforms and develops further in a new historical context and in a different social formation will inevitably adapt itself to the particularities and specificities of that concrete situation. Even under the veil of parliamentary democracy, fascism today has become capable to use terrorist methods of ethnic and racial cleansing, oppression and extermination of minorities, immigrants, refugees, and women, elimination of hard-earned democratic rights, super-exploitation of the workers through new technologies, plunder of nature leading to climate catastrophe and all round militarisation. No doubt, the mechanical approach to fascism by ‘social democrats’ is related to their own position as implementer of far-right neoliberal policies wherever and whenever they are in power.
These varying perceptions on fascism, however, should not be a justification for refraining from the immediate and indispensable task of building up the broad anti-fascist movement for resisting and defeating RSS neofascism. No doubt, an ideologically equipped, politically and organisationally strong Left movement is the need of the hour. At the same time, we cannot wait till such an all India movement is ready, since it will be suicidal. Hence taking care to avoid both sectarian and opportunist deviations, efforts are needed on the part of left-democratic forces to ally with non-fascist sections of the ruling classes in fighting the most reactionary corporate crony capital and the neofascist state propped up by them.
However, in doing so, the genuine left, progressive and democratic forces must be aware of the overlapping, interpenetrating and complex neoliberal inter-linkages and interests among different sections of ruling class parties today. That’s while joining with nonfascist ruling class parties and even with social democratic parties untiring ideological struggle should be carried forward upholding the long-term and strategic interests of the working and toiling people and all oppressed. Any laxity on the part of progressive democratic forces in this issue will lead to surrender of the interests of the working and oppressed people in the interests of “anti-fascist unity”. To avoid such a possible mistake, it is high time to build up a coordination of the country-wide people’s struggles against corporate-saffron fascism and its manifestations. Many peoples movements have been there that combine struggles against both Hindutva fascism and far-right neoliberal policies.
The Anti-CAA Movement or the people’s movement against denying citizenship to Muslim migrants, and the historic Farmers’ Movement against the corporatisation of agriculture were two examples in this regard. Along with them, many struggles of workers, especially the vast unorganised sections, peasantry, oppressed peoples including women, Dalits, adivasis, minorities, especially the persecuted Muslims, youth and students are emerging throughout the length and breadth of the country against corporate onslaughts, displacement from habitat, environmental destruction, caste atrocities, communal oppression, violation of democratic rights and so on. While engaging in these struggles through appropriate organisational forms, progressive and democratic forces have to take conscious efforts to initiate debates and discussions on a political alternative against neoliberal policies and RSS neofascism. Such initiatives at the level of states can lead to a national coordination based on a common minimum program against corporate-saffron fascism. If proper interventions are made, this move can be extended to tactical alliance with non-fascist fascist parties in the coming elections for isolating and defeating the most reactionary neofascists, also utilising the contradictions among ruling class parties in the process.
Here a specific note is also required on the particular relevance in building up effective resistance against Manuvad and growing inhuman Brahmanical caste practices against Dalits.
Hence appropriate ideological, political and cultural interventions joining with all progressive intellectuals and like-minded people against Manuvadi-Hindutva, the ideological basis of Indian fascism. This is essential since, it is based on the the Hindutva ideology that RSS is engaged in the maddening pace towards transforming India into a full-fledged theocratic state with the material backing of corporate capital.