Mainstream, VOL LIV No 10 New Delhi February 27, 2016
Managerial Corporate State and the Myth of Fascist Tolerance
Sunday 28 February 2016
by Murzban Jal
Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time, accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degra-dation, at the opposite pole. Karl Marx
At the moment that the “normal” police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium — the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie, and bands of the de-classed and demoralized lumpenproletariat; all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy. Leon Trotsky
Why are today so many problems perceived as problems of intolerance, not as problems of inequality, exploitation, injustice? Why is the proposed remedy tolerance, not emancipation, political struggle, even armed struggle? The immediate answer is the liberal multiculturalist’s basic ideological operation: the “culturalization of politics” —political differences, differences conditioned by political inequality, economic exploitation, etc., are naturalized/neutralized into “cultural” differences, different “ways of life,” which are something given, something that cannot be overcome, but merely “tolerated.” To this, of course, one should answer in Benjaminian terms: from culturalization of politics to politicization of culture. The cause of this culturalization is the retreat, failure, of direct political solutions (welfare state, socialist projects, etc.). Tolerance is their post-political ersatz. Slavoj Zizek
Europe is Being Attacked! The “Eurobians” are Coming!
“Eurobians” is a very fictitious group of people, just as “Eurobia” is an imagined nation. Accordingly to phantasmagorical imagination invented by the Zionist Industrial Military Complex, “Eurobia” is Europe conquered by Arabs. Consequently “Eurobians” are Arabs who have not only entered Europe, but entered to conquer it. “Eurobians” are thus not only Arabs who live in Europe, they are Arabs invading Europe. And with the crisis in Syria and the mass migration of Syrians to neighbouring countries, these imagined “Eurobians” have turned into reality.
Take the case of the survey done in the USA on December 18, 2015 carried out by Public Policy Polling, when it was found out that 30 per cent of the Republican primary voters say that they support bombing a place called “Agrabah”. “Agrabah”, for those not having much knowledge in the arts and cinema, is from Disneyland’s 1992 movie Aladdin. The fact that Republican voters want to bomb imaginary lands is the larger part of the macabre phantasies created by the global Media Industry. Whilst Agrabah is a work of fiction, Eurobia is also the same kind of imaginary-hallucinated work. Yet the latter functions as a real part of imperialist geo-politics and American foreign policy.
If for Israel and the European far Right, Muslims (from Aladdin to the modern Eurobians) flood into their countries making mosques, wearing veils and skull caps and then robbing people of their jobs and other possessions and then finally bombing cafes and concerts, the RSS, well before the European Right-wing discovered the imagined evil acts of Muslims and Arabs, had already made it their policy in the 1920s which led to the Balkanisation of the Indian subcontinent. They could in this sense take the credit to being the inventors of the imagined lands of Eurobia and Agrabah. They would be the real originators of the theme: Terrorists in Disneyland!
But if the European Right-wing is facing a phantom of their own imperialist intervention and invention (namely, Arabs entering Europe), the Indian liberal who imagines that fascism will bring in development in India is plagued by his own “Eurobian” imagination. In India, it must be noted, the liberal (whether the Indian or the global liberal) loves the Indian fascist. We find a certain postmodern pastiche that Fredric Jameson had outlined around two decades ago. According to Jameson, pastiche is “blank parody, a statue with blind eyeballs”.1 But not only do we have this postmodern pastiche, we have now (to recall Jameson once again) “schizo-phrenic disjunction or ecriture” which gives rise not to pain and suffering (that is, pain at the cruelties of wars), but to “joyous inten-sities....(and) euphoria,”2 in fact euphoria for imperialism and imperialist wars. But here we have ecriture that goes far beyond postmodernity and far behind into the dark ages of the rise of European fascism, that is, somewhere in the 1920s and early 1930s. This postmodern-premodern kitsch is of the liberal and the fascist all mixed up as the Indian nationalist, the nationalist who appears as a statue with blind eyeballs rejoicing at the gory acts of imperialism. The ability to have pain and relate to suffering is totally repressed. Let us have a look at this postmodern-premodern ecriture that has declared war on terror and now decided to bomb Disneyland’s Agrabah. Once it was thought that Waziristan is the most dangerous place on earth. Now we hear that it is Agrabah. The mighty military forces of the American military with the help of Donald Duck and the RSS will finally destroy the terrorists.
What we see here however is that to help the Yanks, Mr Duck and the RSS Inc, the Indian liberal marches in. The Indian liberal does not think that the present political disposition is fascist. That is why we say that suddenly out of the blue when it became obvious to intellec-tuals and artists that the RSS-led government would true to its words start the process of converting secular and democratic India into a fascist managerial corporate state, and they started returning their national awards in protest against the fascistisation of public life, an avalanche of criticism was unleashed by certain liberals. This form of liberalism in India showed that beneath their liberal skins lay the not-so-rational kernel draped in saffron flag. Strange as it may seem, those who were thought to fly the tricolour on their patriotic mansions, have instead flown the saffron flag.
Writing in a national newspaper, a certain liberal writer claiming to be a “senior advocate” said that the idea that India was getting intolerant under this fascist dispensation was a myth.3 His argument is that “India’s Consti-tution and Parliament have always protected the rights of minorities”. The argument is legalist in nature. But behind this liberal’s legalist arguments stands the Indian liberal’s fascist half.
This essay intends to show how Indian liberals, who do not openly support the RSS’ idea of converting India into a fascist state, have deep-rooted anti-Muslim sentiments. And with the terrorist ISIS working with the logic of violent capital accumulation and also with the recent Paris massacre, the finger of suspicion turns unwittingly onto Muslims. The Indian liberal includes all Muslims into this version of silent and sophisticated hatred. In their radar are the actors Amir Khan and Shahrukh Khan (the present-day Eurobians from Agrabah) for their recent views on the rising tide of intolerance.
According to the learned liberal, “one swallow does not a summer make, one Dadri does not make a country of 1.24 billion people intolerant”.4 According to him, the “banning of beef, disruption of Valentine’s Day celebrations, the chopping-off of a professor’s hands and the banning of the works of Taslima Nasreen and Salman Rashdie are not indicators of a nation’s intolerance”. They are merely “isolated regre-ttable incidents”. A small digression is necessary here. Let it be noted that the cry for the burning of books of Romila Thapar and Bipan Chandra by Subramanian Swamy and the banning of Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History by theShiksha Bachao Aandolan Samiti (the RSS’ “movement to save education”) is not even mentioned by our erstwhile liberal. Instead there is a kitsch where Salman Rushdie and Doniger are made to look like twins fathered by the “Indian tolerance debate”. It must be noted that Rushdie’s Satanic Verses banned by the father of Iranian intolerance, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, is in fact a popular book in Iran (though one must confess it is an extremely inartistic work of literature). Keeping our aesthetical sensibilities aside, one only hopes that the Indian public finds ways of subverting the Indian censorship hordes.
But let us go back to our fascist loving liberal. According to this liberal, a nation becomes intolerant only “when its Constitution and institutions are intolerant”. After stating that two Supreme Court judgments of 1994 and 2002 “declared secularism to be part of the basic structure of our Constitution” and like all conservatives (whether conservative democrats or conservative fascists) recall Gandhi and his idea of sarva dharma samabhav, the liberal turns his most tolerant mind towards what he imagines is the real problem: the Muslims.
For the liberal, Muslims constitute only a small fraction of the Indian population (13.4 per cent). But what does this minority community do? It sets up educational institutions and then refuses to abide by the law of the land. They refuse to admit 25 per cent of seats to the unprivileged as suggested by the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009. “Thus a Ramakrishna Mission school,” so says the enlightened liberal, “has to allocate 25 per cent seats to poorer students free of costs, but a St Anthony’s School or an Al-Akbar matriculation school need not do so.” Despite not allowing poor students (should be ‘Hindu’ students for this phantasmagorical imagination) in Christian and Muslim schools, Indians (that is, non-Christians and Muslims) have great tolerance towards minorities.
Not only do they refuse to let poor Scheduled Castes and Tribes into their schools, they take the right “to freely profess, practice and pro-pagate their religion” and then transfigure this fundamental right into a “right that is exercised effectively to convert people to another faith everyday”.
This is how the liberal living in the age of what Suhas Palshikar calls “neo-Hindu demo-cracy”5 bases his argument. Not only are Muslims (along with Christians) intolerant and breakers of the law of the land, not only do they refuse poor Hindus into their schools, they then forcibly convert them. And what does the Indian (or ‘Hindu’) do? This Indian-Hindu does nothing. It is because this Indian-Hindu is tolerant. Hindus are tolerant even though they are poor and denied education by Christians and Muslims. Instead the Christians and Muslims set up schools, convert every next Indian-Hindu and refuse to obey the law of the land and refuse become tolerant towards the tolerant Indian-Hindu.
This is the strange argument of the strange liberal. We must sum up this strange argument. Christians and Muslims are not tolerant. They are advocates of the rich. They do not allow poor Indian-Hindu students in their schools as per the law of the land. They thus refuse to help poor Hindus. And even when they do not help the poor Indian-Hindus, the Indian-Hindus tolerate minorities. So how can India be said to be intolerant when Indians have been tolerating pro-rich Christians and Muslims who refuse to help poor Indian-Hindus? So who indeed is intolerant?
The liberal goes further. It was Shah Bano’s husband (the original Aladdin) who was intolerant. He did not give a “princely sum of Rs 25 per month” as maintenance. He firstly could not tolerate his wife. He then divorced her by the Sharia law because he could not tolerate firstly his wife and then the Indian secular law. And seeing the intolerance of Shah Bano’s husband, the Madhya Pradesh High Court enhanced the maintenance to Rs 179.20. But the Muslim community could not understand that Shah Bano’s husband was intolerant and instead got angry because Rs 179.20 was to be paid by the intolerant Shah. Consequently this “triggered a storm of protest”. What does this mean? It means that Muslims do not want to pay Rs 179.20 to their divorced wives and move around with “triggers” protesting around?
So how can the claims of artists and intellectuals who return their awards be tolerated? How can one be tolerant to trigger-happy protesters who only have a “selective expression of anguish” and become blind to “the extreme intolerance in the Kashmir Valley”? Conse-quently the liberal says that the “outcry against ‘rising intolerance’ is wholly unjustified”. Thus artistes like Amir Khan—who voice their fear when they say that their family members say that staying in India is a problem under BJP rule where the next target could be anyone after Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi—should “have weighed every word lest he provoked many and made some feel insecure”.6
A few years back in the happy days of the Congress brand of secularism I said that the citizen has been defined as an “imaginary terrorist” by not the RSS press, but by the liberal press.7 This is what I wrote when a well- known liberal columnist said that we are treading in “Nether Lands”, an apparent pun on the 2006 Dutch incidence (when young Bohri students with mobile phones were thought to be hijacking a Natwest aircraft) of what I call “imaginary hijacking”.8 I had then said the following:
“‘Nether Lands’ does not mean the realm of the unknown spectral world of the diabolic comprador imagination. On the contrary ‘Nether Lands‘ (for the writer) is the space that the secularists are treading on—the support to Muslims and the refusal to see that we have something called an ‘Islamist problem‘. ‘Nether Lands’ are also the lands of the Muslims who hide in mosques and then bomb innocent people. We must beware of this ‘Nether Lands‘. They have converted the whole of Europe; we are told, into ‘Eurabia‘. The Europeans could not contain the Arabs and the Muslims. Now this imaginary problem has supposedly spilt into India.”
This is also what I said in the same article:
“Let us have a look at the racist picture drawn from the perspective of an Indian neo-con: Europe is no longer Europe. It is now ‘Eurobia’, because of the liberal European immigration laws. Now in this terrible ‘Eurobia’ we find instead of the good white European (who are very good people), Muslims moving round (which for the writer seems to be a very bad idea). Not only do they move around, but also do bad things like going to mosques. And in these mosques of ‘Eurobia‘, they hear that ‘there is only one true religion Islam, and one true Prophet Mohammed. No room for discussion or compromise.’ And it is in these mosques that the London bombers got a brainwave to plant bombs and murder people. The mosques in this imaginary ‘Eurobia’ also gave them inspiration to blow up a number of aircrafts. ‘And what were they going to use? Liquid explosives and mobile phones and iPods as detonators.’ Now what happened in the Natwest aircraft? There were Muslims and that too with mobile phones! Now is this not terrible? How dare Muslims carry mobile phones! Is this not terrible, if not an act of creating direct terror, as also the manifestation of ‘Terror’ itself? This very able writer now informs us that this is proof of an ‘Islamist problem’. We are also told that it will continue to grow till we find out that ‘Indian Muslims have changed in recent years’. Just as Kafka’s hero in Metamorphosis changes into a terrible insect, so too the Indian Muslim (inspired by Bin Laden and Kafka) have been transformed into something most terrible. After pointing her neo-con finger at Bin Laden (and probably at Kafka too), the blame game moves to the court of the secularists who refuse to understand this radical change, even after the Mumbai bomb blasts. She does not even ask: which political organisation was behind the blasts? Instead like a true racist we are told that there is an Islamic hand. The list of further criminal and anti-national activities is high-lighted: not only do the Islamists bomb trains; they now refuse to sing vande mataram. Muslims, we are told, have ceased to be patriotic. To appease the Muslims, the (previous Congress) Minister of Human Resource Development has declared that Muslim children need not sing it to celebrate the centenary of this song, though the whole nation wants to do nothing but sing songs. After the bombing of trains and the refusal to sing vande mataram, Muslims wear veils and send their children to madrasas whose mindset, we are told, has not changed for 1400 years. What should one understand from this? We understand that Muslims have changed, these metamorphosised Muslims who go to madrasas that have not changed. But how can there be change, when there is no change? We are caught in this schizophrenic double-bind: Muslims have changed because they have not changed. And in these madrasas, Muslims learn about the brotherhood of Islam which is in grave danger from crusaders, Jews and idol worshipers. Now from Kashmir to Kanya-kumari, the Muslims are doing nothing but looking up to Arabia for cultural roots. We must cease to look up to Arabia. Instead we must see the richness of ‘our own culture’. See thus the richness of the narcissistic reading of ‘our own culture’; stop looking up to Arabia!”9
Ten years have passed, but the imagination of the liberal has not become static. It has become much more violent. Because we know that the more capital accumulates, the more violent capitalist society becomes. And the more violent capitalism becomes, the more are the conjuring the spirits of the violent and communal politics of both the liberal and the fascist. What contemporary capitalism does is that it converts fear and violence into a commo-dity for sale in the global market. What is now being marketed is the commodity called “tolerance” (besides the commodity called “fear and violence”) which the RSS claims belongs to their warped up imagination of some deluded “Hindu Golden Age”.
Liberalism and Social Democracy
Whilst we denounce the Stalinist theory of conceiving social democrats as “social fascists”,10 and whilst we do not collapse the liberal ideology into the fascist one, we say that there is a linear movement from liberalism to fascism and that Marxism cannot wield the liberal stick to counter the Indian fascists. We saw how the Indian liberal was drenched in the ecstatic wine of liberalism. A dominant section of the Indian liberals sees the present political scenario as a possible rejuvenation of Indian civilisation, a civilisation that was betrayed by Nehruvian secularists (or should we say “pseudo-secularists”) and Left-wing historians. This present Indian liberal also sees the present Indian state as a force against corruption where a no-nonsense Prime Minister takes on corruption and under-development, this rejuvenated Prime Minister who works solely and wholly within the ambit of the Indian Constitution. Now let us see another version, the version (of the same kind of fascist-loving liberal) that was present in Germany one year before Hitler took power. Writing in 1932 Leon Trotsky said:
“In its New Year’s issue, the theoretical organ of social democracy, Der Freie Wort (what a wretched sheet!), prints an article in which the spirit of ‘toleration’ is expounded in its highest sense. Hitler, it appears, can never come into power against the police and the Reichswehr. Now, according to the Constitution, the Reichs-wehr is under the command of the President of the Republic. Therefore fascism, it follows, is not dangerous so long as a President faithful to the Constitution remains at the head of the govern-ment. Bruening’s regime must be supported until the presidential elections so that a constitutional President may then be elected, through an alliance with the parliamentary bourgeoisie; and thereby Hitler’s road to power will be blocked for another seven years.”11
Note this with what is happening here. The liberal legal luminary, that we mentioned in the beginning of this essay, said that India is not intolerant, since the Constitution is not changed. Relate with Trotsky’s above quoted observation that “fascism, it follows, is not dangerous so long as a President faithful to the Constitution remains at the head of the government”. We know that Hitler’s power was not blocked at all, but supported by the liberals and the parlia-ment-fetish worshippers.
Basically the triumph of the RSS and the inability of either the liberal Congress or the Stalinist Established Left are because of their reformist character. This reformism is because they are completely subservient to parlia-mentary politics, because they are totally alienated from the working classes and because the worship of capitalism is final for them. Reformism constitutes all these aspects. And this is precisely the case how the Right-wing in India can intervene and attack both liberalism and the Established Left at the same time.
What we saw in the early part of this essay is how the Right-wing of liberalism (we can call it “conservative liberalism”) attacks popular liberalism of the Nehruvian kind by saying that the very rights of minorities (probably the entire regime of rights) is the problem and that minorities are in actuality intolerant, whilst the majority of the population is tolerant to the presence of Christians and Muslims. What liberalism does not recognise is that a very different paradigm of operation is necessary and being fixated on constitutionalism.
Recall Trotsky once again:
“The politicians of reformism, these dexterous wire-pullers, artful intriguers and careerists, expert parliamentary and ministerial machi-nators are no sooner thrown out of their habitual sphere by the course of events; no sooner are they placed face to face with momentous contin-gencies than they reveal themselves to be—there is no milder expression for it—inept boobs. To rely upon a President is only to rely upon ‘the government’. Faced with the impending clash between the proletariat and the fascist petty bourgeoisie—two camps which together comprise the crushing majority of the German nation—these Marxists from the Vorwärts yelp for the night watchman to come to their aid, ‘Help! Government exert pressure!’ (Staat, greif zu!) Which means, ‘Bruening, please don’t force us to defend ourselves with the might of workers’ organisations, for this will only arouse the entire proletariat; and then the movement will rise above the bald-pates or our party leadership: beginning as anti-fascist, it will end communist.’”12
Both the liberalism of the Congress variety and social democracy of the Established Left cannot see beyond the horizons of capitalism and the parliamentary system. They do not see that fascism is born out from the crisis of capitalist production. Both see the RSS as some sort of terrible accident and contingency in Indian politics. That is why both love Trotsky’s reformists “from the Vorwärts (who) yelp for the night watchman to come to their aid, “Help! Government exert pressure!” (“Staat, greif zu!”) Both do not want a proletarian answer to the problem of fascism, but a bourgeois one. Both yelp for the President and the Consti-tution to intervene.
While the Congress celebrates globalisation with all the nonsense of imperialist restructuring of Asian, South American and African economies conducive for the imperialist economy, also seeing globalisation as some sort of Fukuyama-inspired “end of history”; the Established Left tries its best to reform the slings and arrows of outrageous imperialist fortune, and thus tries to create a world after its own reformist image. On the other hand, what Revolutionary Marxism does is that it does not react to fascist barbarism. Instead it sees that since capital has become a barrier to capital itself,13 it weaves the theme of the rise of fascism in India into the context of capitalist order itself. What Revolutionary Marxism does is that it evokes the Leninist principle of a “Revolution with a Revolution” and not a “decaffeinated revolution, a revolution that does not want to smell of the revolution”.14 It is with this “Revolution with a Revolution” that the crown put on the empty heads of the Indian fascists comes crashing down and along with the crashing of the crowns one also witnesses the crashing of their little fascist heads.
1. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1991), p. 17.
2. Ibid., p. 29.
3. Arvind P. Datar, ‘The Myth of Intolerant India’ in The Indian Express, December 5, 2015.
5. Suhas Palshikar “The Making of a ‘Neo-Hindu’ Democracy” in Seminar, January, 2015.
6. Jay Mazoomdaar, ‘The Real Outrage. Today, Anguish over Violence seems to Shame India More than Violence Does’ in The Indian Express, December 5, 2015.
7. See my ‘On the Communal-comprador Imagination’ in Indian Journal of Secularism, Vol. 10, No. 2, October-December, 2006.
8. Tavleen Singh, ‘Treading Nether Lands’ in The Indian Express, August 27, 2006.
9. See my ‘On the Communal-comprador Imagination’ in Indian Journal of Secularism, Vol. 10, No. 2, October-December, 2006.
10. Stalin thought that social democracy was worse off than fascism. The social democrats who had the majority of the proletarian population in their ranks were called “social fascists“.
11. Leon Trotsky, ‘What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat’ in Fascism. What It Is and How To Fight It (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2005), pp. 29-30.
13. See Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986), p. 250.
14. See Slavoj Zizek, ‘Introduction’ to Maximilien Robespierre’s Virtue and Terror (London: Verso, 2007), p. VI.
The author belongs to the Indian Institute of Education, Pune. He can be contacted at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org