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India: Religious right vs fascism

Thursday 15 February 2018, by siawi3


It is RSS that makes Indian Authoritarianism Fascist: CPI(M) Resolution

Written by Y Venu Gopala Reddy

Published on: February 14, 2018

The Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Leader of the organized Left movement in India is under the grip of an intensive debate on a historical question that is confronting India. The question is critical to understanding the character of BJP-RSS combine. Is it fascistic in nature or not, is the more pertinent aspect of the question under consideration. The deliberations within the Party—as apparent through revelations in the media – have centred around the same issue over the past two years: how to characterize the BJP-RSS, which, in our own experience, is a hydra. To use an Indian simile, the BJPRSS combine compares well to the 1000-headed Kaliyudu, who poisoned the water body that supplied drinking water. The perverse methodology of RSS is not much at variance with that of 1000 headed Kaliyudu of Mahabharata fame.


Characterising the principle class enemy is the single most important task before any Communist Party. In discharging this critical task, the former General Secretary of the CPI(M) set out the terms of the debate in a column in the Indian Express, way back in 2016, in which he termed the BJP government as authoritarian but not fascist. This has led to considerable debate directly within Party fora and indirectly, through media platforms. In a kind of conclusion of this ongoing debate, Prakash Karat, the former General Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) and one among the pre-eminent ideologues of Communist movement in today’s India, through a detailed interview to the Indian Express’ web edition added to his reflections reflection on how to characterize the Modi government. Since his is an important contribution for advancing the debate concerning Left politics in India, I have relied on his conclusions collated from various interviews and interventions available in media. Justifying his characterisation of Modi government, he told Indian Express that in country after country, rightwing leaders have emerged and enjoy the popularity of the people. In my opinion, he has missed out on a basic distinction. Rightwing leaders in the west are different from those in India.

Unlike in the west, in India, the rightwing is rooted within multi-layered social complexities and strongly established sense of The Other. The value and role of constructing the sense of The Other for mobilisational politics in a country like ours, in which a medieval ideology stills holds considerable sway over the daily life of the common man, has enormous potential. This is reflected in not only their conception of the multiple strategies but also their implementation-al capacities of this multi headed hydra.

The danger was rightly pointed out by the Party in its election review of the 2016 Assam and Bengal assembly elections, wherein it stated clearly that the BJP was adopting state specific strategies to maximise its vote bank and ‘winnability.’ Within such an overall a situation, for an important ideologue to draw such a conclusion that the Modi phenomenon is akin to Western right wing phenomena appears divorced from the ground realities of Indian reality and specifics. This will have far-reaching consequences not only for the Left in India, but to India as a whole.

In effect, this means that Karat wants to treat the Modi phenomenon by under-emphaising its roots in the well oiled mechanism of the RSS whose vast network played a key role in both 2014 and successive elections. The RSS officially acknowledged that it was because of 40,000 RSS workers, who had been entrenched in the daily life of the Assamese for about five years that they could win Assam for the first time. In UP, lakhs of RSS workers were at service of the BJP. Even in Gujarat, it is a fact that about seven lakh RSS workers are into booth level poll management.

When we are treat the Modi phenomenon as an authoritarian tendency confined to the popularity of an individual leader, like the Indira Gandhi episode in politics, we are utterly misreading the conjuncture, structure and decades old campaign (of hate and division) that has propped him up. The authoritarianism that had emerged in Western societies particularly in Europe and America during the ongoing crisis of global finance capitalism, as analysed, has never had any explicit or implicit blue print to re-draw (or re-construct)their societies. As we all know, these societies are result of a protracted struggle for modernisation and deeply anchored in liberal democratic social values. These authoritarian leaders, whom Prakash Karat refers to, are only aimed at only maximizing the profits for finance capital rather than focusing on re-constructing the social values based on a liberal democratic ethics. But the authoritarian fascism that Modi represents is completely in contrast to that of Western authoritarianism.

The authoritarianism with Modi at its fountain head is not only to ensure the fullest implementation of neo-liberalism but also to re-christen the ordinary lives of people by redrawing the social ethos on whose basis they stood up, through invocation of fascist the Hindu rashtra design. One stark difference can be brought to the notice of the readers: when in opposition, the BJP/RSS combine used anti-Muslim ism to maximize its reach and vote bank. But once seated in power solidly, its focus has shifted to more diversified bases of social life. That is why since the formation of the NDA 2 government headed by Modi, the scope of cultural politics has got amplified from its limited anti-Muslim plank (though that remains at its core) to a larger ‘un-Hindu’ practices of beef eating, Gita, love jihad etc. Imposing a Hindutva agenda coupled with a changed electioneering is creating un-mitigating consequences on social identities. This is laying a fertile ground for a deep- seated subaltern division among social identities weakening existing solidarities within civil society.

The Party has failed to project an alternative narrative which can play a role in putting forth an alternative cohesive platform. What the Party has discussed in public forums is not linked to the daily lives of ordinary public. It needs to re-christen its narrative to reach the public at large. For that it needs to shun its pedagogy, and adopt a people’s pedagogy. The failure of the Indian Left lies in its inability to present a viable and attractive alternative for re-constructing India. While taking recourse into history, a section of the Party leadership has put forward the failed Maha ghatabandhan experiment in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to wean the voters away from BJP and its affiliates. The reason behind this also lies in its failure to present an alternative narrative which rekindles the hope and confidence among Indians, apart from its own cadres.

Let us look particularly at one more aspect of recent developments. As long as the BJP confined itself to criticizing Congress policies, without presenting an alternative for reconstructing the nation, they also failed to dislodge the Congress from Center. That was the time when Modi came up with a new narrative that attracted considerable sections of society and gave a wider acceptance of a disguised Hindutva polity in the name of rebuilding the nation. What is crucially affecting and impacting on the daily life of Indians is the communalisation of civic society. Its ramifications are felt across the regions, communities and castes. Unless we turn this into an agenda for electoral mobilisation, the CPIM) efforts are going to be like another ‘anti-nuclear agreement style move’ which distances itself from the public. The acumen and expertise of a section of leadership has failed to distinguish the election strategies of BJP with its open and vicious anti-Muslim plank and used disaggregated social identities to stoke anti-Mulsim and anti-Dalit feelings, anti regional sentiments while eulogizing nationalism. A section of leadership also put forth their argument that they (the BJP/RSS) use religious nationalism, ultra nationalism, attack democratic rights but they are also people who work within the political system. By putting forth this argument they have forgotten the distinction between working within the political system and hollowing out the same system by being at its top.

It is evident that, since the 1970s and the Jan Sangh’s partnership in the Janata government, the RSS constantly and gradually worked out its agenda to destabilize the same political system, methodically. Attacking the pillars of parliamentary democracy is the key strategy of RSS which yielded results for it. If we forget this key aspect, we will be at fault in understanding what lies underneath the so called Modi phenomenon and end up equating this with any other kind of authoritarian tendency.

We can see that no other rightwing authoritarianism (that Prakash Karat refers to), has entrenched entrenched itself into the State apparatus as deeply and as tactically as the BJP and RSS has done over the last four decades. Moreover, Hitler also came to power through the political system he opposed and got acceptance for himself by being within the very same system. The aim is same but the strategy different. Just because the RSS is deploying a different strategy, we should not fail in recognizing its fascist tendencies.

Such an erroneous conclusion will end lead us towards Kaleeya Mardhanam without a Krishna of the synchronized collective secular forces and movements emerging with both minimal and maximum demands. This could prove to be a disaster for the Indian Left. It is this difference in appreciation that underlies the differences between the majority and minority draft resolutions presented at the Central Committee meeting at Kolkata. From the above discussion, it is evident that the draft political resolution adopted by the CC with a majority vote, failed to appreciate the grand design of the Sangh Parivar’s Hindu Rashtra project and which led it to characterize the Modi government as merely authoritarian. This will have far-reaching consequences for the forthcoming general elections. This difference in appreciation of fact should be widely debated now rather than reducing them to merely, pro Congress or anti Congress stands. Such a projection would not be a good thing for either the CPI (M) or for the Left and Secular forces in general.

Related Article:

1. Steer Clear from Jargon, Look at the Ground Reality: CPI(M) Today