The relationship between fascism and liberalism is not one of direct opposition. While political liberalism and fascist politics are greatly different, the economic liberalism, which after all is the core and starting point of liberalism, has not found it difficult to adapt to fascism, or even to actively support it. A study of electoral patterns show that throughout the life of the Weimar Republic, the basic Communist and Socialist vote held firm, while the liberal-democratic vote shifted from the Democratic Party to the Volkspartei, the far right DNVP and ultimately the National Socialists. At the same time, the Nazis used liberalism all the way to their seizure of power.
This is even more true for India. Unlike Weimar Germany, with a fairly limited democratic experience, India had close to a century long democratic tradition. The Congress, despite its class and other limitations, introduced certain democratic forms. The struggle for independence also saw a sustained struggle for civil liberties, which continued even after independence. As a result, a purely militaristic bid for power by fascists, as in Chile, was unlikely. A quick coup of the type desired immediately after 1947 was halted in its tracks after the Gandhi murder. Thereafter, Golwalkar clearly adopted a strategy of penetrating into civil society. Even though the RSS and its fronts are today much closer to power than they were in the 1950s, fascists and their fellow-travellers sing a number of seemingly different tunes, to disarm the unwary.
The reasons for these reflections are a number of arguments being raised concerning Kandhamal. The most important aids to the Hindutva-fascists are being provided by certain seemingly liberal or left wing, or even civil libertarian voices. A renegade from the British SWP moved all the way to the BJP in India, and writes as someone seeking a “balance” instead of one-sided attacks on “Hindus”. But this one person is not all. Former leftists, close to the CPI(M), or even claiming a kind of Maoist pedigree [I use the term maoist in its generic sense, rather than meaning specifically the CPI(Maoist) as many people nowadays do] are also in the fray these days.
The strategy of the RSS and its extra-parliamentary wings should be clear to anyone who does not choose to wear blinkers. Wherever the BJP, alone or in a coalition, gets power, the extra-parliamentary wings of the RSS, including the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and others, will use both legal and illegal means to propagate hatred against minorities as an instrument of mobilizing Hindus behind the Hindutva banner. Their instruments will include beatings, killings, rape, setting fire, and other such nice techniques. Frenzy will be whipped up among the poor and socially marginalized, like the adivasis. These have happened, in varying degrees, in Gujarat (the model), Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and now Orissa, even if matters have not reached pogrom level everywhere. Whenever it does, people with left and liberal masks and past are mobilized by the fascists. These renegades from progressive battles flaunt their pedigrees all the better to defend the fascists in a roundabout way.
The usual argument calls for balance. Who killed the people in the Sabarmati Express? It is still murky. Yet we were repeatedly told that it is because we did not condemn adequately and quickly enough the murder of Hindus, the Hindu sentiment was hurt, and Newton’s Third Law took over. Interestingly, the pseudo-liberal agents of the Hindutva brigade were nowhere to be seen when it was revealed that many of the reports, such as the dragging out of women from the train and their being raped inside a Madrasa was a lie peddled by a few rabidly rightwing newspapers. Yet those were the reports used to inflame passions and legitimize the mass rapes and murders of Muslims. In just the same way, this is what we see being repeated over Kandhamal. Aggressive posturing concluding in rapes, murders, the use of open terrorism by the Sangh Parivar and forces within the state that it has successfully subverted [unless you are one of those who believe that all terrorists are Muslims], were part of a long term plan to communalise Orissa. The rape of Sister M. was one particularly glaring incident, but not a one off action. As social movements, women’s rights activists, human rights activists, or just plain concerned citizens began protesting it was also felt necessary to neutralize their protests in a number of ways. So on one hand we have the revolting claims about the sexual habits of Sister M and so on, as if a rape becomes less a rape if any of those assertions were at all true. On the other hand, we have the liberal and leftist face, which pretends that we are at fault for not condemning the murder of Lakshmanand Saraswati. There is absolutely no evidence linking Lakshmanand’s murder with the Christians. His murder, by whoever, was a one off action. It was not part of a sustained terrorism and pogrom. If it is argued that unless his murder is condemned we cannot condemn the systematic violence on Christians, or that his murder justifies the rape of Sister M., then a single murder and a pogrom are being equated. In the name of even handedness, we are being told that the violence on minorities is less important. Will those pseudo-liberal, pseudo-left pseudo-civil libertarians please tell us, how many minority persons equal one figure of the Hindutva pantheon?
A second technique is to seek to dilute the gravity of the situation by lumping it with all other sorts of violence. For example, in the wake of the bomb explosion at Salboni, the police are harassing innocent people. I would have been surprised if they did not do so. We need to stand up for the democratic rights of all. I for one am publicly on record, repeatedly, defending people when arbitrary police action is imposed in the name of fighting Maoism. But do we lump this together with the pogrom? That would ensure that resistance to pogroms are not built.
Such apparently liberal, or left, or even revolutionary heros and heroines need to be fought, exposed, resisted, and driven out of all progressive movements and forums. These are double agents of the fascists in civil society, seemingly in the progressive or at least liberal camp, but actually doing their best to blunt the edge of anti-fascism and anti-communalism. Such rotten pseudo-progressives will call for war to the bitter end on the CPI(M) but soft pedal on the RSS, its fronts, and allies. They will counter every call for democratic rights in Kashmir with crocodile tears for the Pandits, while concealing the role of Jagmohan in the ouster of Pandits from Kashmir. They will defend the democratic rights of right wing hooligans accusing a women’s rally for secularism of being in the pay of the ISI, while condemning any male who defends the secular woman as interfering in women’s autonomy. While a simple action like driving them out without a political battle is erroneous, it is essential to challenge them whenever and wherever they peddle their poisonous ware. Fighting the fascist fifth column is a necessary component of fighting fascism. To resist the violence in Kandhamal, we have to recognize its specifically pogrom-like character, instead of confusing it with quotidian violence.