Aijaz Ahmad's essay on the history of the far right in India and its encroachment into the country's liberal institutions was included in the the Idea of India, Background Papers, EMS Smrithi Series compiled by M.N. Sudhakaran et al, Thrissur, June 2016 and previously published online by The Indian Cultural Forum.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh meeting, 1939. via Wikimedia Commons.
Indian liberalism makes a formidable claim: that the Republic is grounded in such a structurally elaborate and ideologically hegemonic liberal-democratic institutional framework that political forces of all hues are forced to consent to this framework, stake their claims and test out their fortunes within it, go in and out of the corridors of power through procedures of electoral democracy, and thereby further strengthen the liberal framework itself. It is further claimed that since all political forces, from the communist to the fascist, are compelled to accept the norms of universal franchise and multi-party elections, they are further compelled to move closer to the liberal centre as soon as they begin to participate in the exercise of governmental power. For the political centre of this power is itself circumscribed by equally powerful institutions of the civil bureaucracy, an independent judiciary, a freewheeling fourth estate, as well as a vibrant and highly articulate civil society. And, indeed, more than enough empirical evidence is available for one to construct a plausible narrative of post-Independence India on such premises. Its plausibility is what gives to the claim such persuasive power.
This interview with Enzo Traverso was first published in L'humanité. Translated by David Broder.
June 2015 press conference of far right 'Europe of Nations and Freedom' bloc within European Parliament.
In his Les Nouveaux Visages du Fascisme, historian Enzo Traverso analyses the mutations of the European far Right movements that have emerged from "the fascist matrix."1 According to Traverso, the Left has to "offer political perspectives again" in order to occupy "the immense void" that is today being filled by both jihadism and a "post-fascism" that excludes Muslims.
Are Europe’s far-Right movements (the AfD in Germany, the Front National in France, Jobbik in Hungary…) adopting the same codes as fascism or Nazism?
Enzo Traverso: First of all, these movements do share common traits, including their rejection of the European Union, their xenophobia and their racism, in particular in its Islamophobic dimension. Beyond these markers, we can see notable differences. There are clearly neo-fascist or neo-Nazi movements, like Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, etc., whose radicalism is often linked to the extent of the crisis, even if in Greece the rise of Syriza did put a lid on this dynamic. As for France, the Front National does have a fascist matrix, and there are certainly neo-fascists in the party, but its discourse is no longer fascist. After all, it has made a considerable effort at ideological mutation, and that is one of the keys to its success. If it still advanced neo-fascist arguments it would not get a hearing, and could certainly not hope to reach the second round of the presidential election.
In Les Nouveaux Visages du fascisme, Enzo Traverso and Régis Meyran discuss the continuities and discontinuities between the fascist movements of the twentieth century and the "post-fascist" far right of today. Olivier Doubre spoke with Traverso for the 16-22 February 2017 edition of Politis. Translated by David Broder.
You use the term "post-fascism" to characterise today’s far Right movements. What does this term mean?
Enzo Traverso: The idea of post-fascism firstly serves to characterise a political movement that is shot through with contradictions, and which has an evident fascist matrix — for that is its history, where it comes from — and in the Front National’s case a dynastic line of descent. There is an undeniable fascist hard core in the FN apparatus, its activist base, composed of neo-fascist militants of all generations. They are very active in the FN and hold onto a good part of the organisation. So there is a rift between the organisational reality of this party — or even its anthropological fabric — and Marine Le Pen’s discourse in the media or the public sphere, which is of a xenophobic, nationalist, anti-neoliberal tenor but also comes out of a social Right. Yet if the FN were a neofascist sect, or even a neofascist party, I do not think that it would be considered likely to appear in the second round of the presidential election, or even capable of being France’s biggest party. This party is thus clearly transforming, and it is trying to operate a process by which it dialectically transcends its fascist character — but without entirely rejecting it. So in order to fight this party, we have to understand what it has become.
The outrage, fear and depression after Trump’s inauguration is palpable everywhere. Trump’s first acts in office, moving to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, signing an anti-abortion Global Gag Rule, and reviving plans to build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, signal that he will be as dangerous a leader as we expected. The 2.9 million people who marched around the country as part of the Women’s March on Washington on January 21st send an inspiring message that many are galvanized to fight Trump’s hateful policies. But this is the very beginning of what will be a long and painful fight.
We must never give in to despondency and futility, rather we must learn from the revolutionary movements of history and mobilize together against Trump’s regime of oppression.
We present this reading list as a useful starting point for anyone sharing in our overwhelming sense of anger and despair at our present crisis, and anyone looking for hope and inspiration in the resistance movements of the past and the organizing strategies of the present.
Download our free ebook, The Anti-Inauguration: Building Resistance in the Trump Era, here.
First published in France in 1970, Nicos Poulantzas' Fascism and Dictatorship was translated by Judith White for New Left Books in 1974. In their introduction to that edition, the editors wrote:
The victory of fascism in Germany and Italy in the inter-war period was perhaps the greatest defeat ever suffered by the European working-class movement. The exact social nature of the political regimes led by Hitler and Mussolini has remained a focus of controversy on the Left ever since. Much new scholarly research has been done in the last decades on Nazism and Fascism, and a large literature written on them by liberal sociologists and historians. Nicos Poulantzas's work, by contrast, is the first major Marxist study of German and Italian fascism to appear since the Second World War. Fascism and Dictatorship takes full account of recent advances in empirical knowledge of the phenomenon of European fascism, but seeks to develop a rigorous theory of it as a specific type of capitalist State — using many of the concepts formulated in the now standard Political Power and Social Classes. Poulantzas's book carefully distinguishes between fascism as a mass movement before the seizure of power and fascism as an entrenched machinery of dictatorship. It compares the distinct class components of the counter-revolutionary blocs mobilized by fascism in Germany and in Italy respectively. It analyses the changing relationship between the petty bourgeoisie and big capital in the evolution of fascism. It discusses the internal structures of the fascist State itself, as an emergency regime for the defence of capital, and it provides an extensive and documented criticism of the official policies and attitudes of the Third International towards fascism, in the fateful years after the Versailles settlement. Fascism and Dictatorship represents a challenging synthesis of factual evidence and conceptual analysis that has generally been rare in Marxist theory.
We present an excerpt from Fascism and Dictatorship below.
In this section I shall first examine the relation between fascism and the dominant classes or class fractions within the periodization indicated above. I should at once make it clear that fascism is a very complex phenomenon: it can only be explained by elucidating its relation to the various classes in struggle. Nevertheless, it corresponds to a very particular situation of the various dominant classes and class fractions.