V.26:No.9-10 Sept-Oct. 1999 #304-305
Editorial Note, p. 1-2.
"Right-Wing Politics, and the Cultures of Cruelty," Aijaz Ahmad, p. 3
"A Future for the Past?" K.M. Shrimali, p. 26
"Against Communalising History," D.N. Jha, p. 52
REPORT, p. 63
BOOK REVIEW, p. 74
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Aijaz Ahmad's Ved Gupta Memorial Lecture, which we publish as the lead article of the current number of Social Scientist, is remarkable inter alia for its uninhibited use of the term 'fascist' to describe the Hindutva brand of ideology and politics. He uses the terms, of course, in a somewhat supple and wideranging sense. The origin of 'fascism' in this sense is traced to the 1880s which marked the emergence of m odern imperialism on the one hand, and of mass working-class parties on the other; and its project is seen as the will to fashion 'an anti-materialist conception of revolution, anti-liberal conception of nationalism, anti -rationalist critique of Modernity, anti-humanist assaults on the politics of liberation, in a rhetoric of 'Nood and belonging', and in the name of a glorious past that never was'. The ideologies covered under the rubric of 'fascism' are marked by the fact that they too are dedicated to making their own kind of revolution, that is, revolutions of the Far Right.
Ahmad's paper, which is a remarkable tour de force, raises, however, a number of questions. Of these, only the following two can, be mentioned here: first, while fascism as a marginal tendency may exist in society for a long time, it becomes a force to reckon with only in certain historical conjunctures; can we not then say that a more contextualised characterisation of fascism (which focusses on the class-situatlon that propels it to hegemony), such as what the Comintern under Dirrutrov had provided, would be more useful for praxis than a characterization in terms either of the movement's own proclaimed objectives and self-perceptions, or of its general and unvarying features such as its 'Culture of cruelty'? This question is important because it points to the way the fascist prograin-le changes to cope with the conjuncture.
Secondly, can we treat fascism in the advanced countries and fascism in the third world as identical (or similar) entities, simply because of their obvious common features? What, for instance, is the relationship between thirdworld fascism and imperialism? In particular, can a fascist regime establish itself in the third world without the blessings of imperialism? If it cannot (and it is instructive that the Khomemi regime, which had all the features of a fascist regime except the blessings of imperialism, could not last long), then the contextualised characterisation of third-world fascism has to be inade taking this aspect too into consideration.
This second question is important for answering a number of more specific questions: for example, is fascism in third-world countries like India an offshoot of anti-colonialism (a segment of the anti-colomal national movement being imbued with a fascist character), or is it a force independent of, and opposed to, the anti-colonial national movement, a force which develops an altogether different concept of the 'nation': not in opposition to [++Page 2 Social Scientist] imperialism but in opposition to some hapless domestic minority? The Indian experience would suggest the later perspective on fascism: even though the Congress-led national movement had substantial communal elements within it, the RSS, the core of the Hindutva movement, was never a part of any anti-colonial struggle. (And even Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha who began as a fighter against colonialism ended up meekly compromising with it). Likewise, should one accept the imperialist characterization of the Milosevic regime as 'fascist', notwithstanding whatever odious policies it might have pursued, when it is engaged in such a significant anti-imperialist struggle?
Questions such as these need to be debated at length in Marxist circles, and urgently. It is the great merit of Ahmad's article that it initiates such a debate in a forthright manner.
K.M. Shrimali's paper highlights the attempt being made in our country to obliterate a pluralistic cultural heritage under the banner of cultural nationalism. It also draws attention to the significant fact that such attempts are occurring elsewhere as well and are not necessarily confined to the fascist groups alone, though the latter tend to be the chief source of inspiration behind such attempts. Even the European Union has been lavishly funding campaigns with chauvinistic overtones. The complementary paper by D.N. Jha makes meticulous use of historical evidence to destroy several communal myths, such as the claim for instance that the 'Muslims' were destroyers of 'Hindu' temples and that they converted 'Hindus' to Islam by force.
Between December 28, 1998, and January 1, 1999, SAHMAT had organised a five-day convention and festival on secular cultural action, which was attended by activists from other South Asian countries as well as from the Indian diaspora. We carry a report on that important event by Mira Rosenthal.
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Webbed by Philip McEldowney