Indian History & Sangh Parivar (Was: Medieval India)

Dr. M.F. Tritsch tritsch at MZDMZA.ZDV.UNI-MAINZ.DE
Tue Dec 5 07:21:24 UTC 1995

Ok, this is not the place to discuss fascism, but a few words in 
response to criticism and questions seem in order:

Why call anybody fascist? Either because you want to insult them 
(unwise in the west, downright foolish in India), or because you want 
a word to describe their ideas. Let's stick to the second.

I think "fascism" describes a set of overlapping and sometimes 
contradictory beliefs that first became fashionable in continental 
Europe in the 1920s:
1) A return to the ancient traditions of the race
2) Militaristic, corporativistic social organisation
3) Leadership cult
4) National self-reliance
5) Respect for labor - full employment
6) Aggressively nationalistic foreign policy

Although it's the combination of all these that makes for trouble, 
the first three seem to be the most important. A political organisation 
that scores 5/6 or 6/6 on the list probably is fascist, 4/6 is a 
borderline case, less (unless it's the first three) is just right-wing, authoritarian, 
police-state, etc. Number 5 is just commonsense - Hitler built the 
Autobahnen. Communists replace race with class - Pol Pot and the Red 
Khmer is the worst case, Castro is benign in comparison (like Franco 
was, as fascists go). 

The RSS in India?  Perhaps 5/6 (Hindutva, military organizational 
approach, Swadeshi, uncompromising on Kashmir, but no leadership 
cult). The same goes for Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena.

Other things that are associated with fascism in its name-calling 
version (police brutality, gas chambers) are either not specifics of 
fascism or else were specifics of the horrifically perfectionist German 

Exploitation of communal differences is not the exclusive preserve of 
fascists, or in India of the Hindutva brigade, though only they have 
made it a central plank of their policy - its also not specifically 
fascist (Mussolini didn't use it). What makes the RSS and maybe some 
other organizations in India fascist is the COMBINATION of all these 
things into a brew, which, going by European historical precedent, 
justifies the use of the term.

The BJP is certainly a different matter, and may suffer the 
"civilizing" influence of Indian political culture, if recent events in 
Gujarat are anything to go by. Nevertheless, the RSS are the 
stormtroopers of the BJP, and could succeed in fully capturing policy 
making when it gains national power (probably next year). So far, the 
main characteristic of the BJP is its exploitation of whatever part 
of the Hindutva program that seemed to move the masses for the moment.

The fact that Congress and other parties also have severe failings is 
not relevant to the discussion.

To Yvette Rosser: it's all right for Ashrams and Godmen to
create organizations based on inspiration and charisma (i.e. 
hierarchical) - but they are religious, not political. A political 
organization wishes to form the state in its own image. You don't 
HAVE to belong to a religion, but you do to a state. And don't put too 
much faith in the global village - look at Bosnia.

To S Vidyasankar: I agree we have to discuss with people whose 
ideas we don't necessarily like, but I also think there is nothing 
wrong in "essentializing" - doesn't this mean extracting the essence 
from an argument? I can't see how this can dehumanize anyone.

Maybe all this doesn't belong in a list run by Sanskrit scholars - 
but academics sometimes underestimate the power and influence of 
their ivory-tower thoughts. Hitler would have gotten nowhere but for 
the German professors who thought that Autobahnen were a good thing 
and said you mustn't take Mein Kampf seriously. They made bad ideas 
respectable. That's why I say: let's call a spade a spade - it 
doesn't stop us talking to the man holding the spade.

Mark Tritsch

DR. MARK F. TRITSCH      (Tel/Fax: +49 611 691497)

Institut fuer Zoologie III
Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet
55099 Mainz

Schnappschuss internationale Forschungsnachrichten
Breslauer Strasse 14 b
65203 Wiesbaden


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