Fascism Part 2: Creeping in Or Already Here?
Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Benito Mussolini of Fascist Italy,
NEW DELHI: Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist of repute examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and other countries. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each that have been come to be accepted over the past decade as milestones defining a nation’s movement towards fascism.
The Citizen applies the 14 characterIstics to the current situation in India, looking at the facts on the ground.
7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
This remains a potent weapon with ‘national security’ used mostly in the external sense, and for the past 18 months has been directed more at Pakistan than any other country.
The RSS right agenda of security being threatened by terrorists has become the national discourse---as it was even during the Congress government in the past years---with pictures of horror being conjured up to consolidate vote banks and allow the military and security forces to be armed to the hilt.
The issue of foreign migration, such as the refugees from Bangladesh, is a constant too with the issue becoming a part of the discourse in the eastern states of India, particularly Assam and West Bengal. Religion is attached to the issue for further polarisation, and in Assam it has been the genesis of violence for nearly 40 years now.
Surveillance in the name of national security has been made official part of governance. And according to the political leaders themselves no real norms are followed by the political party in power at the centre. Under the current BJP government the surveillance hype went to the proportions where Ministers joined Opposition leaders in maintaining they were being watched and the joke---or as senior lawmakers insisted, the fact----is that the Cabinet members are using mobile telephone connections in the name of staff members to make their calls. Surveillance, however, has been tightened and is palpable in Delhi.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
This is more evident now than it ever was in the past, not even when the BJP itself was in power. The difference between the state and the majority religion is being obliterated at a fast pace, with government Ministers at both the state and centre from the right wing parties indulging in religious-political statements and action over and over again.
Social media is used for a constant propaganda for a “Hindu state’ and warnings to ‘others’ to pay heed. Statements from senior leaders, including murders and violence as mentioned earlier, draws silence from the central government that remains watching the developments taking a toll on peace and life from a distance.
9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
The corporate class in India, the business aristocracy, is active in forging this relationship. It was in fact the first to give a clean chit to then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, even when governments like the United States and the United Kingdom had still to lift travel restrictions on him following the 2002 Gujarat violence.
After the Modi government came to power, the corporates have rushed to endorse and support it, with several statements from leading industrialists praising the government and the Prime Minister. Large business delegations accompany him on his visits abroad, with even the world corporate community crowding around him during these visits.
PM Modi himself seeks out the international corporates, taking all plugs out during a recent visit to the US where he met the top honchos in a series of functions and events. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg remained a distinct favourite, with both seen to be working towards ensuring a corporate controlled internet.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
Labour unions have been the target of all governments for the past 20-30 years and have been systematically destroyed by the governments and business houses together. Like the Congress, the BJP is also pushing for labour reforms that do not favour the working class but the attack on these in a systematic fashion under the new dispensation has still not begun.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
This has started in right earnest, and is clearly a priority area for the government. Cultural institutions, historical research bodies, universities are all being targeted through RSS and BJP appointees with men and women of the arts and culture, and of letters being replaced with haste.
Those who resist have been killed, attacked, faces blackened, with senior Union Ministers now publicly joining issue with the Sahitya Akademi writers who have returned their awards in protest against the targeted killings of scholars and others. The writers have been derided even by a senior Minister like Arun Jaitley.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
The police has always had a fascist character, deepening as the days go by, in India. It still remains a state subject with the large number of rights organisations continuing to provide resistance, to a point where governments are still accountable ---at least to some extent---for the increasing number of custodial deaths that reflect the brutality of the police force across India.
In states like Jammu and Kashmir the police is more draconian and oppressive than the Army, with the Public Service Act being used for mass arrests and harassment of the youth in the state. Despite the demand for its withdrawal successive governments have refused to take away these powers from the police that is used with impunity in the state.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
Part of Indian polity already.
14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
Not in India as yet. Smear campaigns are splashed across both ends of the spectrum, with the opposition and the ruling party candidates suffering equally even as they hurl the same at each other with equal strength.
(See Part One : click here)