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Mainstream, VOL LV No 39 New Delhi September 16, 2017

On the Rise of Bonapartist-fascism in India

Monday 18 September 2017

by Murzban Jal

The social revolution of the nineteenth century cannot take its poetry from the past but only from the future. It cannot begin with itself before it has stripped away all superstition about the past. The former revolutions required recollections of past world history in order to smother their own content. The revolution of the nineteenth century must let the dead bury their dead in order to arrive at its own content. There the phrase went beyond the content—here the content goes beyond the phrase. — Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

There is a great need of someone with sufficient courage to tell Indians: “Beware of parliamentary democracy; it is not the best product as it appears to be.” — B.R. Ambedkar, The Failures of Parliamentary Democracy

Fascism, Hindu Rashtra and Ideological Slavery

There is a close link between fascism and liberalism, fascism and social democracy and fascism and Stalinism. The rise and triumph of fascism in India has to be seen through these three correlates. So far fascism is in the stage of majoriarian-totalitarian democracy and through bourgeois parliamentary democracy is mobilising the people. In a way it is different from the Nazi type of fascism. In fact I call the fascism in India as “Bonapartist-fascism”. The first thing one must note is that this Bonapartist-fascism has mass support and though it works through the dictatorship of finance capitalism, it has this mass support. The question one poses is: “Why do masses give support to finance capitalism and fascist politics?”

The next thing that one needs to note is that fascism in India has triumphed through two distinct stages: (1) soft Hindutva of the Vajpayee era, and (3) the masochistic Hindutva heralded by Narendra Modi. The latter has become more aggressive after the announcement of demonetisation. Demonetisation is one more ‘experiment’ in the Hindutva laboratory, an experiment following the terrible Gujaratexperiment of 2002. It must be noted that Modi became extremely popular after this terrible ‘experiment’. One of the motives of demonetisation is to check the response of the masses, just as one of the motives of the 2002 experiment was to both check the response of the masses as well as to gain mass support for himself as a fascist-majoritarian leader. Presently the Indian state has taken the form of what Nicholas Poulantzas called the “exceptional capitalist state”1 where the state appears as if it is above all classes; in fact appears as if it is against the capitalist class and for the masses. What Modi has done is that he has transformed the idea of state from the “national war engine of capital against labour” into an angel-like bird that is seen “soaring high above society”.2 Modi wants to end all corruption. He reads all the holy books to get rid of this terrible evil. Little does he know that the state itself is “the greatest scandal of that society and the very hotbed of all its corruptions”.3

To counter corruption, Modi thought it unwise to deal with the scandalous state as the hotbed of all corruptions. Instead he imagines that people are basically corrupt. Thus began his great programme of demonetisation. But our Indian Bonaparte did not understand that this demonetisation, announced on November 8, 2016, would be definitely seen as the culmination of the “Madness of Manu”. What must be highlighted is that this madness of demoneti-sation is not something extrinsic to what one calls after Ambedkar as the “Madness of Manu”. Demonetisation is both the Madness of Manu as well as a madness that involves a type of a symbolic castration of democracy. Modi becomes a New Manu—the New Lawgiver for India.

Demonetisation or notebandi—for this New Lawgiver—actually implies nasbandi (sterilisation). But by nasbandi the fascists imply castration. What they mean is: “We, the true inhabitants of India, we, the Hindutva supremacists, will come to your houses and castrate you.” What they also mean is: “You have been screwing for quite some time. And because of your screwing, India has become corrupt. The best way to remove corruption is to castrate you.” For the Indian fascists, as was for the Popes, corruption comes with the “Original Sin”. And since Adam and Eve indulged in “Original Sin” and since the “Terrible Fall” began with this, one must reverse this with the “Great Castration”. This “Great Castration” will get rid of all corruption and absolve India of all its crimes. Little would this inventor of madness understand that:

The nation feels like the mad Englishman in Bedlam who thinks he is living in the time of the old Pharaohs and daily bewails the hard labour he must perform in the Ethiopian gold mines, immured in this subterranean prison, a pale lamp fastened to his head, the overseer of the slaves behind him with a long whip, and at the exits a confused welter of barbarian war slaves who understand neither the forced labourers nor each other, since they speak no common language. “And all this,” sighs the mad Englishman, “is expected of me, a freeborn Briton, in order to make gold for the Pharaohs.” “In order to pay the debts of the Bonaparte family,” sighs the French nation. The Englishman, so long as he was not in his right mind, could not get rid of his idée fixé of mining gold. The French, so long as they were engaged in revolution, could not get rid of the memory of Napoleon, as the election of December 10 [1848, when Louis Bonaparte was elected President of the French Republic by plebiscite] was proved. They longed to return from the perils of revolution to the fleshpots of Egypt, and December 2, 1851 [the date of the coup d’état by Louis Bonaparte], was the answer. Now they have not only a caricature of the old Napoleon, but the old Napoleon himself, caricatured as he would have to be in the middle of the nineteenth century.4

Our Bonaparte is a combination of the mad Englishman and the French (that Marx talked of) who were obsessed with the memory of Napoleon. Our Bonaparte evokes old Pharaohs and goes searching for gold. He promises us the Promised Land. His followers shout: “Long live Modi!” There is of course no gold. Even the little money which people had was robbed from them. But then the followers of Modi say to us that if we do not get gold one day, the Golden Age will most certainly come. We shall of course have to wait for this Great Age.

This essay is on the rise of the Right-wing Bonapartist-Hindutva movement in India and the fascist imposition of their authoritarian rule, an imposition that is realised through their phantasmagorical imagination of the so-called past “Golden Age”, an age that was destroyed (according to their phantasies) by Muslims, secularists and Communists. This essay is also on the new type of struggle against the Indian fascists that needs to be invented in this age of Bonapartist-fascist castration-demonetisation. This essay is also on the perpetual ideological war against Indian secularism being waged by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which intends to install a “Hindu Rashtra” in India.

In my Why We Are Not Hindus (as was in my articles in this journal) I said that at one level it is necessary to claim that these Right-wing neoconservatives cannot even think in terms constituted within nationalist terms, but think through borrowed categories, borrowed in fact from the repertoire of imperialism. What is necessary to state is two things (1) that one needs a scientific theoretical problematic and concrete terrain to pose the question of the rise of fascism in India, and (2) that the fascists cannot invent their own terms; since they are perpetually indebted to the imperialists. One also needs to say that their entire nationalist repertoire is borrowed from the colonial authorities. The “national question” thus has to be posed to the masses. While the RSS has a colonial Orientalist ideology of Indian nationhood (Sanskritised-nation state nationalism)—or a “nationalism from above”—there is a direct nationalism that one needs to create: the nationalism that Jyotiba Phule argued for—the “nationalism from below” or the “nationalism of the Dalit-bahujan multitude or the Leninist workers and peasants”.

It is in this concrete terrain we ask the first question: “What is the first thing that we tell the Indian fascists?” “We say,” so our argument goes, “that you want to construct a “Hindu Rashtra”, but do you know, so we tell them, that the word “Hindu” is not something internal to India? “How then have these ultra-nationalists,” so our argument goes, “with their xenophobic sense of foreigners, not only borrowed from alien sources, but fallen victim to this theft?” There are two concrete things to be done: (1) that we create a counter-narrative by exposing their utter ignorance and also by exposing their ideological slavery to colonialism, and (2) to relate mass consciousness and thus popular culture with the fetishism of commodities. This latter part has to deal with the reification of mass consciousness produced by the Media Industry. Let us begin with the first part, namely, the ideological slavery to colonialism.

Since November 8, when our Bonaparte announced the demonetisation, the shrill of the ideology of installing this awful Hindu Rashtra has taken more strident forms. They make programmes of installing statues in the middle of oceans (and who knows where else), statues that even television programmes claim are of “Akhand Bharat”. And since the RSS talks of sampoorna samaj (united society) based on the ideas of sangathan (unity) and shuddhi (purification) we intend to lambast them for their utter stupidity. At the outset, it must be said that the word “Hindu is not something indigenous to India”. In ancient India, for instance, there were no people called the “Hindus”. Instead one had the “bamanshramanan” (the Brahmans) and the “shramanas” (the Buddhists and the Jains).

The word “Hindu” is in fact a term of Persian origin. So when the fascists claim that they intend to construct a “Hindu Rashtra”, we tell them that do you want to construct a “Persian Rashtra”? And since the Indian fascists want to build their fantasy on the myth of “Hindu Rashtra”, we once again rebuke them for their very stupidity, banality and unoriginality. It must be understood that the term is Persian in its origins. Thus we need to ask our Bonapartist-fascists that when they want an Akhand Bharat, if they want this to be ruled by the Persians. Do our enlightened fascists want the Iranian Ayatollahs to govern modern India? Would we then have to construct statues of these divine-seeking Ayatollahs in the middle of the oceans?

Why do we say this? We say this because it was first the Persians since at least the time of the Achaemenians (who ruled Iran from 559 BCE to 330 BCE) who described the people of South Asia as “Hindus”. This is the first thing to be noted in pointing to the banality of the Indian fascists who want to impose their “Hindu Rashtra”. It must further be noted that there is also written evidence for this. It is the Holy Book of the ancient Iranians—the Avesta—who called this land HaptHindukan.5 It must also be noted that this term in antiquity was geo-cultural and strictly from an Iranian point of view. The ‘Hindus’ were what the Iranians called the people living on the eastern part of the Sindh region. Later the Arabs and other people in West Asia too used this Persian term. Remember that for all West Asians (after the triumph of Islam), India was and yet is what they call “al-Hind”. This geo-cultural West Asian usage was then inserted in the readings of India, especially by Albêrûnî’s magnum opus, India. Mughal rule in India continued this Persian usage. But they Indianised it such that the Persian HaptHindukan became “Hindustan”. This our good fascists simply forget.

In my Why we are not Hindus I have said that the origins of the terms are many a time problematic.6 In this book I have also said that whilst one can say that this is for the term “Hindu”, one can also mention the paradox of the origins of other terms. For instance, Babur, the founder of what we now know as the “Mughal Dynasty”, disliked the term “Mughal”—Mughal is actually the Persianised term for “Mongol”. Though Babur’s mother was a Chaghtai Mughal and was also the descendent of the Chingiz Khan (1162-1227 CE)—of the pre-Islamic Tengri Shaman cult—for him, “mischief and devastation must always be expected from the Mughal horde”.7

One needs a sense of history and honesty to define ourselves. A historical idea is found in the following:

The first name of our country was in Prakrit Sola Maha-Janapada (Sixteen Great States), which occurs in texts going back to 500 BCE. Remember Sola is a Prakrit word and many of our languages, including Hindi and Urdu, go back to Prakrit. These maha-janapadas ranged from Kamboja or Kabul to Anga in eastern Bihar and so were confined only to northern India; and there was not yet any concept of India as we now conceive it. In some Dharma Søtras, the term Aryavarta, ‘the land of the noble’, begins to occur and the Manusmriti defined Aryavarta as the country from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas; but then again it is only a large part of India and not the whole country that the term encompasses.8

Instead of the sense of history, a sort of what one may call the “cunning of reason”, to borrow Hegel’s term, seems to govern national identities. This Hegelian cunningness governs the history of India from the Persian HaptHindukan to Hindustan. But if the ruse of reason runs through the above mentioned course, the complete destruction of reason governs the aetiology of the imagined “Hindu Rashtra”. I noted in my Why We Are Not Hindus, that if for Babur “mischief and devastation must always be expected from the Mughal horde”, then much more mischief and devastation must always be expected from the Hindu Rashtra horde led by the Indian Bonaparte and his band of castrating demonetisation-wallas.

In contrast to the fascist hordes with their ideology of the destruction of reason, let us see once more the sense of history:

The first perception of the whole of India as a country comes with the Mauryan Empire. Those who have studied Indian history would know that the inscriptions of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka range from Kandahar and the vicinity of Kabul to Karnataka and Andhra and they are in Prakrit, Greek and Aramaic. So it was with such political unity that the concept of India came, and its first name was Jambudvipa, a name which Ashoka uses in his Minor Rock Edict-1, meaning ‘the land of the Jamun fruit’. The term Bharata was also used in a Prakrit inscription in Orissa, at Hathigumpha, of the Kalinga ruler, Kharavela, in 1st century BCE; it is the first known instance of the use of Bharat, and Kharavela uses it for the whole of India. So, gradually the concept of India as a country began to arise and a cultural unity was also seen within it as religions like Buddhism, Brahmanism and Jainism spread to all parts of the country. Prakrit was used, at least literary Prakrit, all over the country, becoming its lingua franca. So, there were things which, as people could see, united us.9

That is why I am saying that the term ‘Hinduism’, as is being used today by the Indian elites, is basically a vacuous, cunning and fuzzy term created and determined by colonial authorities to govern the masses. It is fuzzy and misleading since it is bereft from its West Asian origins.

What needs to be told is its contemporary usage is an Anglicised-Brahmanical manipulated term, manipulated firstly by the colonial state in collaboration with the upper caste elites, a manipulation that was used by the same upper caste elites in independent India, and which is now being used in its most brutal communal-fascistic form by the RSS. It must be noted that the contemporary usage—both in popular usage as well as the one used by the RSS—cannot be confused with the original Persian term. Usage of this term, mainly as a single religious entity devoid on the Islamic heritage of India, was constructed by the 18th century Orientalists based on the Judeo-Christian understanding of what constitutes a religion.10 This usage was grounded in Brahmanical imagination, based on Vedic textuality which completely erased all anti-Brahmanical subaltern traditions. And if they were not able to completely erase these subaltern traditions, they appropriated them. But this appropriation was and is determined by Brahmanism. If Marxism talks of the economic base of society being the determining resort in the “last resort”, then we say that it is Brahmanism that is this determining element in the last resort.

That is why we say that there is no unified doctrine called “Hinduism”. “Hinduism”, as a unified doctrine, is both a myth and a ritual. And if the Orientalists (especially Max Muller) imagined a unified doctrine called ‘Hinduism’, the colonial authorities used the same to create a Hindu-Muslim zone of conflict. Instead of using the term “Hinduism”, one should use the term Brahmanism especially as the dominant ideology of the upper-caste Indians, since Shankara (788-820 CE) began his counterre-volution against Buddhism. And that is why we insist that the term ‘Hinduism’ is a fetishised cloak that veils caste and class relations. And that is also why one needs to state that because the Left did not use alternative vocabulary for formulating an alternative nationalism, the RSS could enter this space that was left vacant for them. Hindutva, invented by V.D. Savarkar in the 1920s (when parts of Europe were being steamrolled by fascism), further cloaks caste and class relations. We thought earlier that the Indian fascists simply cannot think, because they cannot even think of original categories. Now with the Bharatiya Janata Party (the political wing of the RSS) coming to power in New Delhi, this joke has become a tragedy. Romila Thapar notices this:

The imposing of a religious identity as the primary political identity is of course the contribution of colonial scholarship and policy and eventually found its way even into anti-colonial nationalism. The tragedy is that, after independence, we did not question these identities but retained them. Some historians and social scientists questioned them suggesting alternative identities, but they were attacked and described as Western stooges (oddly enough), anti-national and as Marxists (thought to be the worst abuse possible)! It was not the failure of our historical imagination but the general resistance to accepting a more nuanced and accurate understanding of the past. The methods and arguments used by religious “nationalisms” in India are rooted in colonial perceptions and procedures and will flourish as long as we accept these. We haven’t even excised those colonial laws that are harmful to democracy—we continue to be governed by them.11

The Reification of Mass Consciousness

It is because we need to expose how religious nationalism is rooted in colonial policy and also because we need to understand how these are being made to grip the masses, that we need to bring in Walter Benjamin. Consider Benjamin:

There is no document of civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. And just as such a document is not free of barbarism, barbarism taints also the manner in which it was transmitted from one owner to another. A historical materialist therefore dissociates himself from it as far as possible. He regards it as his task to brush history against the grain.12

And since what one thought to be a joke, namely, that some fantasy called “Hindutva” has now become a reality, albeit a reality in barbaric tragicomic form, we say that not only is this fascist project of “Hindutva” a barbaric tragicomic fiction-fantasy, but also the entire project of Hinduism a phantasmagorical project. Whilst we are talking of this theme of Hinduism as phantasmagoria, we are claiming that the term “phantasmagoria” is a central Marxist idea that Marx highlights, mainly in Capital, Vol. I. Phantasmagoria implies something magical, ghostly and eerie, an idea that was also central to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein.

What has now happened with the coming to power of the brigand of the RSS, the storm-trooper Modi, as the Prime Minister of India, is the activation of the phantasmagorical-Franken-steinean idea. And the fact that this triumph of fascism is rooted in capitalism and the tremendous crisis that accompanies it; one links this idea of Hindutva as phantasmagoria with Marx’s original formulation of the fetishistic and phantasmagorical character of commodity production. Read the following quote from Marx. But substitute the word “commodity” with “Hindutva” and understand how in the era of generalised commodity production, the fascist project of Hindutva has become a commodity (albeit a lethal commodity marketed by the Culture Industry of the corporate sector backing Modi) to be consumed by the masses. According to Marx,

A commodity appears as, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it.....But so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was.13

A brief note on the above passage is necessary. This part deals with the relation between the reification of mass consciousness and the fetish character of late capitalism. Its importance cannot be discounted, especially when what one calls the Established Left—led by the CPI-M—has not only not related with active real politics of bourgsoisdom, but also almost forgotten this very important idea. Note that the ideas of magic and ghosts are central to this passage. What has happened is that a terrible inversion and distortion has happened with the coming of capitalism, such that real people have become predicates of an alien life-force. In Capital, Vol. III Marx further evolves this idea and says that real actors of capitalist history are the strange pair: Monsieur Capital and Madame Rent, who are doing their ghost-walk all over the globe,14 whilst humanity is destroyed by this spectral-ghost walk.

One knows that this idea of fetishism and reification was kept central to the entire reper-toire of Marx, later taken by Gyorgy Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness, but an idea that has been totally forgotten in the real politics of Revolutionary Marxism. Whilst one could point out that this idea was discounted since the times of the Second International, especially by the betrayal of the revolutionary traditions of Marxism (mainly by Karl Kautsky and Georgi Plekhanov), its complete obliteration began with the Stalinist counterrevolution, when Marxism in the Soviet Union was transfigured from historicism and humanism to firstly a form of positivism (inspired by Nikolai Bukharin) and then into bland theology (as best exemplified by Stalin’s works especially in his Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR). What the Established Left in India did was that it took more from Bukharin and Stalin and completely forgot the emancipatory character of Marx’s humanism and mass politics. And it is in this vacuum that the fascists occupied the stage.

What happens with this above reading is that this idea of the fetishism of commodities is transformed into the fetishism of the state, especially the fetishistic attachment to the bourgeois liberal-democratic state. Consider the above quote and relate it with the storm-troopers of the Indian variant of fascism. See how one now reads the liberal-democratic state as appearing at surface level a “very trivial thing, and easily understood”, whilst its “analysis shows that it is in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties”. Note how the liberal state as “soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than ‘table-turning’ ever was.” “Table turning”, in this passage of Marx, refers to the craze that had gripped bourgeois Europe where the lords and the ladies evoked the spirits of the dead. A very small note on translation is necessary. First the English rendering is “table turning”, when actually it is making heads dance (“aus freien Stücken zu tanzen begänne”).15 In the original German Marx, says: “Man erinnert sich, das China und die Tische su tanzen anfigen, als alle üübrige Welt still zu stehn schienpour encourager les autres” implying that “One may recall that China and the tables began to dance when the rest of the world appeared to be standing still.”16

One must note that the idea of standing on its head is also reminiscent of Yoga and the fetish character of Brahmanism. One must further note that the Nazis were also fascinated by Yoga. What we get from this passage is that liberal democracy is able to conjure more ghosts than those evoked by the traditional ghost- seekers. Further, the idea of the “wooden heads” of Monsieur Capital and Madame Rent fits in well with the new leaders of India. The “grotesque ideas” that emerge from their wooden heads are the ideas of the racist and supremacist ideology of the imagined “Hindu race”. And it is with these grotesque ideas emerging from the fascists’ wooden heads that one notes how the liberal-democratic state that stands on its head, with the dancing tables, planchets and the spirits of the long dead, is now evolving into the fascist Hindutva state. One had earlier heard how apes evolved into humans. Now we hear how liberals have evolved into fascists. And central to this very strange type of evolution, stands the political state, a problem that the Established Left never understood.

But why does one say that the state as such (or in other words, the state in general) is not the terrain for Marxism to operate on and that Marxists since the early 1920s in the Soviet Union made an error in embracing the state mechanism (clearly against the philosophical vision of Marx especially in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and Class Struggles in France as also his 1871 letter to Kugelmann and Lenin in State and Revolution)? We say so because this state along with the concrete conditions in Europe in the 1920s let the Czarist agents and other bourgeois bureaucrats enter the Soviet state apparatus that led to the terrible Stalinist counterrevolution beginning in the late 1920s leading to the complete collapse of the Soviet experiment in 1991.

What happened in India was that the Established Left—led by the CPI-M—did not understand this process thus making them a part of the state that they were supposed to destroy. But this was only one part. With the development of capitalism in India and with the onslaught of neo-liberal capitalism (a process started by the Congress) the state was taken over by the RSS first led by the alleged liberal Atal Behari Vajpayee (from 1998-2004) and now in May 2014 by Modi. This has led to the transformation of the liberal state to the fascist state. The tragedy is that what once one thought was a comedy scripted in this crazy text, called Essentials of Hindutva written by Savarkar in 1921-22, has become a reality.

So what is wrong with this text that one calls it phantasmagorical and Frankensteinean? And why does one say that this idea is out rightly racist, casteist and fascistic and the contem-porary Indian state, armed with this bizarre political ideology of Hindutva, will lead to the same sort of horrors that other fascists states experienced?

Let us have a look at it. In this work, Essentials ofHindutva, Savarkar outlines a mythical imagined history (in the form of social myth that the German Nazis had invoked) of India, beginning with the Orientalist myth of the Aryans (his eulogisation of the warrior-priest tradition of Vedic times), the rise and fall of Buddhism in India (for Savarkar the Buddhist ideas of ahimsa and universal brotherhood—he calls them “opiates”—were signs of weakness where what he calls the “political virility” and the “manly nobility of our race” ended) and the consequent triumph of the Vedic warrior-priestly tradition with the fall of the Mauryan empire.17 What must be recognised is that whilst there are traces of Nietzsche, the central ideas of the Essentials of Hindutva are the Nazi idea of the Aryan race in perpetual war with the other races. And for Savarkar’s mythical-history, Buddhism collapsed because it digressed from the warrior practice of his imagined Aryan race only to preach and practice what he calls the “mumbos and jumbos of universal brother-hood”.18

For him, “so long if India had to live at all a life whether spiritual or political according to the right of her soul, she must not lose the strength of national and racial cohesion”. One should not forget not only the racist but also the casteist underpinnings of Savarkar where nationality is defined not only by what was known to bourgeois nationalists (including Stalin) as “common culture and common language”, but primarily as “common blood”. The imperialist and racist thoughts are obvious: “if the earth is conquered by the Mlecchas this land of the gods will perish, because of the abolishing of sacrifices and other religious rites.” One should not forget that the idea of the “Indian nation” for Savarkar is based on imperialist conquest where Shalivahan, the grandson of Vikramaditya, “conquered the irresistible Shakas, the Chinese, the Tartars, the Balhikas, Kamrupas, Romans, Khorajas and Shathas”.

What the initial idea of Indian fascism under Savarkar did was that it reinvented the idea of the Indian people as some sort of homogenous people who are determined in the last resort by the fascist idea of blood descent. And what this imagined homogeneity did was that it then recreated a false collective in the form of a communitarian idea of society. But what this idea of Indian fascism did was that it constructed a spurious idea of communitarianism, or what one could call “estrangement communi-tarianism” where neither equality nor liberty exists. Here the modern national popular unity is disrupted for a fascist idea of the “people”, where this false collectivity firstly erases the idea of social classes for the idea of a national whole. It was Mussolini (the father of Italian fascism and also an ex-socialist) who said that the idea of classes and class struggle was false. Instead it was the idea of the national that would be the essence of Italian fascism. One also knows that this idea of the “people” (Volk) was the essence of German fascism based on the ideology of blood descent where the idea of citizenship was displaced for an idea of “community” (Gemeinschaft). Somewhere I had said that community and citizenship “have had a problematic relationship”, as has been recently pointed out, “since the origins of political thought. The Greeks had only one word to express these two aspects: politeia, whence we derive our ‘politics’ as well as our ‘police’.”19

What classical fascism in Europe did was that it removed the ideas of citizenship or politics proper and inserted the ideas of community and police. It also invented the Right-wing ideology of race. The Indian fascists then inserted a colonial borrowing of race theory wherein they made claims of the “Race spirit” in the 1920s. The ‘Aryan’/’Jew’ opposition was changed into the ‘Hindu’/’Muslim’ opposition. If Savarkar initiated this idea in the early 1920s, the RSS would make this into a doctrine in the late 1930s. M.S. Golwalkar’s We, or Our Nation Defined is the second master text of Indian fascism after Savarkar’s Hindutva. We saw what Savarkar said about nationality built on the idea of blood descent and masculine virility. Now consider Golwalkar who talks of “foreign races”. Note how this imbecile idea was once again learnt from the repertoire of imperialist Europe. Now note what our beloved son of the soil has to say:

The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must hold to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu religion and lose their separate existence, to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treat-ment—not even citizen’s rights.20

Consider two more statements of Indian fascism. The first is from We, Or Our Nationhood Defined and the second from Savarkar’s Hindu Rashtra Darshan. This is what Golwalkar says: “Race is the body of the nation, and that with its fall, the nation ceases to exist.” And now note the shocking statement of Savarkar: “Nazism provided undeniably the saviour of Germany.” It is noting these two absolutely fascistic statements thatone now is compelled to ask: “What did this fictitious ‘Race spirit’, now drunk on the Aryan-Hindu fantasy, talk of?” It talked of the “Hindu nation” based on the imagined “Hindu race”. Now it is well known that it was Savarkar’s Essentials of Hindutva, where Hindutva was invented as a racial category and where the categories “Hinduness” and “Hindudom” were created, that borrowed totally from European feudalism’s idea of “Christendom”. That is why it is important to say that these ideas of “Hinduness” and “Hindudom” came into the lexicon the Indian fascist movement from fascist Europe. In no way can one claim that the idea of Hindutva is indigenous to Indian civilisation. If the brutal form emerged from European fascism, the early Romantic version, especially as found in the works of Novalis and Friedrich Schlegel came also from Europe. Consider Novalis’ 1799 work, Christianity or Europe:

Those were beautiful, magnificent times, when Europe was a Christian land, when one Chris-tianity dwelled on this civilised continent, and when one common interest joined the most distant provinces of this vast spiritual empire without great worldly possessions one sovereign governed and unified the great political force. Immediately under him stood one enormous guild, open to all, executing his every wish and zealously striving to consolidate his beneficent power. Every member of this society was honored everywhere. If the common people sought from their clergyman comfort or help, protection or advice, gladly caring for his various needs in return, he also gained protection, respect and audience from his superiors. Every-one saw these elect men, armed with miraculous powers, as the children of heaven, whose mere presence and affection dispensed all kinds of blessings. Childlike faith bound the people to their teachings. How happily everyone could complete their earthly labours, since these holy men had safeguarded them a future life, forgave every sin, explained and erased every blackspot in this life. They were the experienced pilots on the great uncharted seas, in whose shelter one could scorn all storms, and whom one could trust to reach and land safely on the shores of the real paternal world. The wildest and most voracious appetites had to yield with honour and obedience to their words. Peace emanated from them. They preached nothing but love for the holy, beautiful lady of Christianity who, endowed with divine power, was ready to rescue every believer from the most terrible dangers.21

This has to be understood. Why do fascists appeal to the plebian masses? They appeal because they talk also in Romantic terms. The fascists know how to romance with ideology. But what Savarkar did was that he took the Romantic idea of nationalism bereft of its modern and aesthetical sensibility. Whilst Savarkar’s work smacks of the unacknowledged borrowings from Novalis and Schlegel on the Romantic idea of nationalism, he most certainly cannot be compared to either of them. For Novalis and Schlegel the ideas of beauty and liberty stood central to their works. For them the political state had to be formed around the idea of beauty. The European Romantics wanted a unity of politics, identity and religion. Savarkar created the absolute identity between politics and racial-religion. What he did was that he merely politicised, in the Right-wing sense, religious prejudices, and transformed these into the ideology of racial superiority. But what he primarily did was he feudalised Indian nationhood—in fact feudalised it in a very Catholic Church- type (and thus papal-type) borrowed from feudal Europe. Thus what he did was transform feudal Europe’s idea of Christendom into the idea of Hindudom. Strictly speaking, Hindudom is a total fiction. It has never existed, just as no “Hindu Church” ever existed. Savarkar continu-ously talked in Essentials of Hindutva of a “Buddhist Church”. What Savarkar did was that he created a fantasy of “Hindutva” borrowed totally from the lens of feudal Europe. What Golwalkar and the RSS did was transform this fantasy into a phantasmagoria. Hindutva, since Golwalkar, was possessed by the spirits of the long dead. And just as commodities seized by these spirits (as in Marx’s Capital) began to dance, so too Hindutva since the late 1930s did their ghostly dancing. See one concrete fascistic ghost dancing where “Hinduism”, as a French convert to Vedic Hinduism and Nazism once said, which “used to extend over what is now Afghanistan, over Java, over Cambodia. Powerful Hindu India could reconquer these lands and give them back the pride of their Indian civilisation”.22 According to this type of Nazi Vedism, India (as the “Hindu Rashtra”) “could make Greater India once more a cultural reality, and a political one too”.23 Making statues in the oceans is an essential imperialist sign. It is a new signature of imperialist cartography. 

What needs being said is that this idea of imperialist “Hindu India” as a form of a “Hindu empire” is what the Indian fascists are carrying out as its essential ideas. But these ideas need material reality and forms of concrete practice. What the fascist establishment in India will do (in carrying out its mission of “militarising Hinduism”, as Savarkar called it) is that it will declare war with Pakistan. In this sense the demonetisation programme will have concrete footing. Demonetisation can be rationalised only at times of war. 

 If authentic people’s democracy was not possible in pre-capitalist India (governed by the uncanny and fuzzy Brahmanical ideology and the Asiatic mode of production), under this fascist Hindutva rule the democratic ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity can only be transformed into the bourgeois reality of infantry, artillery and cavalry. Hindutva needs infantry, artillery and cavalry. It needs wars. There can be no “Hindu Rashtra” devoid of war.

That is why it is important to state that the bourgeois state in its liberal stage was fascinated by liberty; but in its fascist stage it is infantry, artillery and cavalry that would fascinate it. That is why it is also important to state that the Indian liberals would herald the welfare state; their fascist descendents would unleash the warfare state. And in this ecstatic evolution from liberty to artillery, the liberal democrats, led by Rahul Gandhi, and Established Left, led by Sitaram Yechury, would be dumbfounded. They thought that they would take refuge in the state. But to their great alarm they found that there was no space for them in this state.

The RSS does not merely want a Congress-free India. It wants an Opposition-free India. And very soon, when this happens the Established Left—half-Stalinists, half-liberals—would soon find that there is also no place for them even in the streets. They will find that they were betrayed by Parliament because they betrayed the streets.


1. See Nicos Poulantzas, Fascism and Dictatorship: The Third International and the Problems of Fascism, trans. Judith White (London: New Left Books, 1974). My analysis transcends Poulantzas’s analysis.

2. Karl Marx, ‘The Civil War in France’ in Marx, Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), pp. 286-7.

3. Ibid., p. 287.

4. Karl Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’ in Marx, Engels, Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), p. 98.

5. See the Zoroastrian Pahlavi Vendidâd (Zand=ÎJvît-Dê v=Dât), transliteration and translation by B. T. Anklesaria (Mumbai: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, 2002), p. 12.

6. See my Why We Are Not Hindus (Delhi: Aakar Books, 2015).

7. Zahir Uddin Muhammad Babur, Babur Nama, ed. Dilip Hiro (London: Penguin Books, 2006).

8. Irfan Habib, ‘Building the Idea of India’ in Mainstream, Vol. LIV, No 1, December 25, 2015.

9. Ibid.

10. See Richard King, Orientalism and the Myth of Modern Hinduism (New Delhi: Critical Quests, 2008), p. 10.

11. Praveen Swamy, Interview of Romila Thapar, ‘Ideas of History’ in The Hindu, April 5, 2014.

12. Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ in Illuminations, trans Harry Zohn (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins, 1979), p. 258.

13. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), p. 76.

14. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986), p. 830.

15. Karl Marx, Das Kapital, Erster Band (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1993), p. 85

16. Ibid.

17. V.D. Savarkar, Essentials of Hindutva (1923).

18. Ibid. 

19. See my ‘Why we are not Hindus: A Reply to the Indian Fascists’ in Mainstream, Vol. LII, No 1, December 28, 2013. See also Etienne Balibar, Politics and the Other Scene ((London: Verso, 2005), p. X.

20. See Shamsul Islam, Golwalkar’s We, Or Our Nationhood Defined. A Critique with the Full Text of the Book (New Delhi: Pharos Media, 2006), p. 14

21. Novalis, ‘Christianity or Europe. A Fragment’ in The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics, ed. Frederick C. Beiser (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), p. 61-2. See also my Why We Are Not Hindus, p. 33.

22. Savitri Devi, Warning to the Hindus (Calcutta: Hindu Mission, 1939), p. 142. Also see my ‘In Defence of Marxism’ in Critique, Vol. 40, No. 1, February 2012.

23. Ibid.

Prof Murzban Jal is the Director, Centre for Educational Studies, Indian Institute of Education, Pune.

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