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.