In the aftermath of the Indian elections, South Asia Labor Watch was one of many groups and individuals to be dismayed by the victory of Narendra Modi based upon an analysis that emphasizes the role of the RSS as the shock troops of prospective fascism.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the issue with Shamik Sarkar, a Kolkata-based activist, who put things in a different light. Sarkar argues that a true understanding of the idea of fascism in India has more to do with state-media-corporate collaboration than it does with the foot soldiers of Hindu nationalism.
As you’ll see, ‘fascism’ can have very different meanings to different people, and their analyses for the process for making change can differ alongside that. On to an edited transcript of the conversation:
SALW: Greetings, Shamik. I’m very curious what you make of the elections.
SS: For us, election is not a big thing, you know. Whoever comes to power, life of the working people in this country will remain same. Moreover, electing, and electing a ruler, and electing a powerful ruler in this election are agenda of powerful middleclass (almost 30 pc of total electorate/population) in our country. They always decide the election, as they swing to here and there. In most of the time they are fractured, thanks to their attachment with regional powers. In this election, in most of the states they overwhelmingly opted for a ‘strong’, ‘decisive’ ruler in the Center (barring a few, like TN, WB, Odisha, Punjab, Kerala). Their idea of being governed by a stick-yielding one, of being ruled by a strongman, of getting f**ked by a hot rod in the a** is indeed an indication of fascist mindset. Our electoral democracy and party system has every element of making this wish fulfilled. But I think their lust of self-repression will not get a go as a diverse country like us cannot be governed with iron hand, and BJP is wise enough to understand this. Rest of the people are least interested about electioneering apart from casting their votes, sometimes calculating immediate material gain out of it.
Thus, I am not in the chorus of Fighting Fascist Ruler, which in my opinion is more ideological than practical or real life. But we will surely fight the fascist tendencies of middle class and common working people, not only in their politics but in everyday life as well, and will watch the liquidation and reform of fascist ideology of RSS by their own man.
SALW: What do you think is the answer to the kind of class tyranny you describe and won’t conditions for organizing worsen under RSS-rule?
SS: We are in favour of organizing at grassroot level, with whatever popular issues are in hand. It is not wise to fight them face to face. Actually, for some years (2008 onwards when people’s movement against land acquisition subsided), face-to-face fight against any ruler has become almost impossible for common people. Perhaps since 2001. The State has turned into a fascist direction since the War on Terror has arrived. The RSS today is not more powerful than State-Corporate-Media, and thus people are under a systemic fascism and a little change would occur if RSS is made a little more powerful organisationally. Left in India is still visualizing RSS as the face of fascism and doesn’t see the actual structural fascism through state-corporate-media combination. That is pity.