Nearly a century ago when the modern world was yet to figure out the perils of fascism, German feminist, socialist- Marxist theorist Clara Zetkin presented a seminal paper at Third Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International predicting the emergence of fascism and its ugly face.
Inter alia she said “fascism is inextricably tied to the economic crisis of capitalism and the decline of its institutions. This crisis is characterized by escalating attacks on the working class, and by middle layers of society being increasingly squeezed and driven down into the proletariat.”
In the 1923 report Zetkin said the failure of working-class leadership breeds demoralization among workers and among the forces within society that had looked to the proletariat and socialism as a way out of the crisis.
India was definitely not in the radar of the 1857 born German socialist, but fascistic tendencies and the failure of working-class leadership in India is more pronounced today than at any other time. Key Opposition parties such as the Congress, BSP, SP, RJD, TDP and JDS appear to have lost their will to fight the ruling dispensation.
Despite having a plethora of issues on a platter－economic downturn, farm crisis, job losses, turmoil in the banking sector, dalits and minorities’ unrest, controversial NCR and the Kashmir tangle－the Opposition has not been able to call the government’s bluff. If the demoralization and inertia persist it would not bode well for parliamentary democracy.
Apart from Trinamool Congress and DMK, only the Marxists seem to have understood the dangers of leaving the political space entirely to the BJP-RSS conglomeration.
Despite suffering severe electoral setbacks in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala, the CPM has decided to fight back. After years of political confusion and in-house wrangling whether or not to have tactical understanding with bourgeois Congress and other regional parties, the Marxist party seems to have got its priority right going by the tenor of deliberations at its Central Committee meeting in Delhi last week, that is, to fight “fascist and communal” forces on a war footing.
The CC assessed “the threat posed by renewed Hindutva offensive” to parliamentary democracy and the Communist movement in particular. The key question before the CPM is how to build an organization capable of protecting the party and developing political and mass struggles against the BJP regime.
The party is learnt to have gauged that an important aspect behind the “rightwing consolidation” is the support BJP is getting from big corporate and international finance capital and as quid pro quo the “authoritarian unitary model of Hindutva” will facilitate the transfer of land and other resources to them without obstacles.
The comrades reckon that apart from the routine attack on dissent and democratic rights, the BJP-RSS combine will specially target the CPM and the Left being the most consistent and vocal fighters against the right wing forces.
“We are up against a determined, ideologically motivated, bitterly anti-Communist force with wide organizational and social network backed by huge resources,” said a party theorist.
According to him capitalism has entered a period of social crisis, marked by escalating attacks on the rights and living conditions of working people and the oppressed, while sharpening social polarization.
“The November 2016 election of billionaire capitalist Donald Trump as US president, following a campaign marked by brazen rightist demagogy and openly racist appeals, was both a reflection and a sharpening of this crisis.”
Such movements aim to shift the blame away from the failure of capitalist system, looking instead for scapegoats: immigrants, Blacks, Jews, self-confident and independent women, LGBT people and others.
Outlandish conspiracy theories are conjured up designed to deflect attention away from the social and economic system responsible for the crisis. An identical situation now prevails in India.
Marxist strategists say the fascists’ reactionary appeal to divide working people need to be fought by putting forward a common struggle by the oppressed and exploited regardless of nationality, ethnic background, or gender.
This right wing consolidation in India is seen in the background of the global rightward shift. The political resolution of the 22nd CPM Congress had noted that the rightward shift that has taken place globally was the result of the prolonged crisis of neo-liberalism.
The way the ruling classes have sought to meet the crisis, and the discontent created among the people by the crisis have fuelled the rise of racism, xenophobia and the far-right and neo-fascist forces.
These tendencies have found reflection in India too. Against this backdrop the party has realized that its “tactical line” is inadequate at the ground level to counter BJP-RSS, especially in the social and cultural spheres.
Zetkin pointed out that violent fascist gangs are not composed entirely of ruffians of war, mercenaries by choice, and venal lumpens who take pleasure in acts of terror.
“We also find among them the most energetic forces of these social layers, those most capable of development. We must go to them with conviction and understanding for their condition….” she said. The youth, according to her, are drawn to fascism as “the best of them are seeking an escape from deep anguish of the soul.”
Eyeing the burgeoning youth power, the CPM is mulling to improve the age composition of leading party committees to promote new, young leadership.
As of now, the Central Committee has an age limit of 80 years. The average age of the present CC is 66.2. In order to lower this age composition, the party plans to reduce the age limit to 75. Similarly, age limits may be set for the state committees and the lower committees.
The fact that fascist ideology elevates nation and state above all class contradictions and class interests has made CPM’s task tougher. The BJP has got ideological legitimacy among substantial sections of the people under the cover of nationalism, which actually is “Hindutva nationalism”. Therefore, the biggest challenge before CPM is breaking BJP’s ideological matrix.
Kay Benedict is an independent journalist.