ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hindutva and Fascism

Fascism: Essays on Europe and India edited by Jairus Banaji, New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2013; pp xii + 233, 450 (enlarged and updated edition).

Comparisons between the Sangh Parivar and interwar European fascisms are inescapable. The founders of the Sangh were inspired by, and emulated and adapted, those fascisms (Casolari 2000). The Parivar’s proliferating role in Indian politics also periodically suggested the comparison, whether to politicians such as Indira Gandhi in the 1970s or to intellectuals after the demolition of the Babri Mosque (Sarkar in the volume being reviewed; Ahmad 1993; Basu et al 1993). Other scholars have questioned the relevance of the comparison (Vanaik 1994; Jaffrelot 1993), though not very successfully (Desai 2016). While political parties have often engaged in similar political tactics—let us confine ourselves to Sanjay Gandhi’s Youth Congress and the 1984 massacre of Sikhs or the Shiv Sena’s long record of union and basti-busting—no party’s activities have so systematically elicited comparisons with fascism as those of the party of Hindutva.

Though some would confine the applicability of the concept of fascism to Europe, others would conflate it with communism (through the concept of “totalitarianism”) and yet others who cannot think about the problem of fascism except in connection with anti-Semitism and the holocaust, the possibility of fascism lurks in all capitalist societies in which mass politics has arrived. To be sure, it is not the “normal” form of capitalist rule. However, along with dictatorship—military or civilian—and “Bonapartism,” it is one of the authoritarian forms of capitalist rule that have become possible and necessary for capitalism at times when existing forms of rule either no longer sufficed or were seen not to suffice. That is why Horkheimer said, “He who will not speak about capitalism should keep silent about fascism too.”

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