“One of the most crucial questions was whether Asian democracy could compete with Asian Communism unless it, too, organized its village efforts on a massive scale…. [Jawaharlal] Nehru said that history had selected India as one of the democracy’s testing grounds. This was a contest which he and India welcomed, a challenge which must be met head on.”-Chester Bowles, US Ambassador to India
On 23rd March, the Indian National Congress’ Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a member of Parliament by the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Om Birla, due to Gandhi’s conviction in a Surat, Gujarat court. He has been sentenced two years of jail time for comments he made in 2019 which have seemingly offended the sentiments of the entire Modi community, culminating in a defamation suite. Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, is the current face of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s opposition. Gandhi’s conviction is of course going to go a long process of legal battles but his suspension, pushed under the garb of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (which provides for automatic disqualification of any member of a legislator upon a criminal conviction) represents an intensification of the fascist offensive. A narrative is starting to emerge which is trying to push mass resistance behind the aegis of the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, which holds a dangerous historical precedent.
What does Rahul Gandhi stand for?
It must be iterated that fascism does not necessarily translate to the end of parliamentary opposition. Georgi Dimitrov of the Communist International clearly established, “the development of fascism, and the fascist dictatorship itself, assume different forms in different countries, according to historical, social and economic conditions and to the national peculiarities, and the international position of the given country. In certain countries, principally those in which fascism has no broad mass basis and in which the struggle of the various groups within the camp of the fascist bourgeoisie itself is rather acute, fascism does not immediately venture to abolish parliament, but allows the other bourgeois parties, as well as the Social-Democratic Parties, to retain a modicum of legality. In other countries, where the ruling bourgeoisie fears an early outbreak of revolution, fascism establishes its unrestricted political monopoly, either immediately or by intensifying its reign of terror against and persecution of all rival parties and groups. This does not prevent fascism, when its position becomes particularly acute, from trying to extend its basis and, without altering its class nature, trying to combine open terrorist dictatorship with a crude sham of parliamentarism.”
In India’s case, Brahmanical Hindutva fascism has not required the elimination of India’s parliamentary system or the need for stringent action against its opposition within the parliamentary system due to the so-called democratic institutions like elections providing fascist rule with legitimacy. This legitimacy has allowed the BJP to push for rampant valorization of foreign finance capital in India and the plunder of India’s resources under the garb of neo-liberal policies. Fascism’s service to imperialism, the violence it practices against Indian peoples, has also provided impetus to peoples’ resistances and the sharpening of the contradictions within Indian society.
Rahul Gandhi and the INC represent another aspect of this contradiction as the alternative form of comprador bourgeois class rule in India. Fascism’s continued offensive in India has not only led to intensification of resistance against fascism, it has also re-invigorated national liberation movements in India which challenge the fundamental character of India itself. In the long term, bourgeois class rule cannot sustain itself in India through Brahmanical Hindutva fascism which has irreconcilable differences with these national aspirations as well as the larger demands of the masses. It must be clearly established that the contradiction between the BJP and the INC is an intra-bourgeois one, where the shift in dominance of either will only change the nature of the comprador bourgeois class rule in India from fascist to semi-fascist. The differences in the politics of these two bourgeois camps is visible from Rahul Gandhi’s recent campaigns.
During the Bharat Jodo yatra, Rahul Gandhi walked to different parts of India, claiming to unite the different “broken parts” of India, where he walked from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu to Srinagar in Kashmir. During the course of this charade, Gandhi sold himself as a man of the people. It must be clear that Gandhi’s politics did not lie in support of the peoples’ resistances all over India but instead, presented a ‘liberal’, soft Brahmanical approach wherein even areas like Kashmir where national liberation is a major question, is to be coerced to be part of Gandhi’s united Bharat.
This “softer hand”, also made a public presentation to the imperialists regarding the politics that they offer with Rahul Gandhi’s recent speech at Cambridge University, UK. Embodying the spirit of his ancestor Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi spent a long time pointing out how his Bharat will combat China and its expansion. As Chester Bowles had pointed out, India would serve as a fundamental pawn in imprisoning not only the nationalities within South Asia, creating a large unified market for imperialist exploitation, but also as a tool to counter China for the imperialists as an example of “Asian Democracy.” Chinese social-imperialism, which serves as an opposing trend towards the hegemony of US imperialism requires that the US have its foot soldiers surrounding their opposition and pursue their interests in the region. Indian expansionism has fulfilled this role diligently. Gandhi would also talk about the curtailment of democratic rights in India under fascist rule along with this. Therefore, the alternative that the comprador bourgeoisie in India offers for the maintenance of its rule is this “unity in diversity” politics of Gandhi and the Congress.
Brahmanical Media and Its Compromised Narratives
As the intra-bourgeoisie contradiction also sharpens, the expectation that somehow this soft Brahmanical camp offers realistic resistance to fascism is embodied by various camps of liberal media. Delhi University’s Badri Raina, writing in The Wire has gone on to state, that Gandhi “seems feistier than ever before, and even more dogged in his pursuit of the truth about corruption at the highest echelons of business and the government.” He adds that the Congress, “like the old Janata conglomeration of the mid-1970s, has now taken the systemic crisis to the street in a plethora of cities, likely to be joined in by others as the movement proceeds apace.” In another piece, French political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot writes in The Wire that Rahul Gandhi would transform as a real challenger to Modi and the BJP “if the real victim is none other than Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru who spent more than nine years of his life in jail and made many sacrifices for the cause of India’s freedom.” Jaffrelot predicts a shift in how the masses would perceive Gandhi, with him becoming a fighter from the streets in contrast to Modi, through repression he faces by the BJP. Both Jaffrelot and Raina predict a galvanization of the parliamentary opposition to BJP behind Rahul Gandhi, particularly the likes of Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party. This section of media will be bolstered by the 31st March 2023 decision of the Gujarat High Court against a public interest litigation by Kejriwal demanding Modi to furnish his educational degrees, ones Modi has claimed to have in his electoral registration. The Court stated that this is not necessary and fined Kejriwal a sum of Rs. 25000.
But can fascism be merely countered by semi-fascism? Why is it that instead of galvanizing against fascism, the likes of social fascist Communist Party of India (Marxist) have started to openly collaborate with Brahmanical Hindutva fascism? In Gujarat, Kejriwal gets fined but the AAP blatantly collaborates with the Hindutva nationalist centre against the people’s resistance in Punjab? Is fascism only a matter of corruption of the state and did the Congress not serve the very same comprador capitalists like the Tatas, Ambanis, Jindals, Birlas etc. the way the ruling fascists serve them? This attempt at portrayal of Gandhi as a leader of the people fighting in the streets, of Nehru as a leader of Indian freedom and not as a leader of India’s comprador bourgeoisie becoming official managers for neo-colonial interests in India, is also representation of the on-going developments within the comprador bourgeoisie and how it wants to rule and maintain its control over India. Rahul offers a perfect distraction from the real issue: imperialism. By attempting to divert the peoples’ resistance from the open terrorist dictatorship of foreign finance capital in India towards its symptoms like corruption and violence, the comprador bourgeoisie and their imperialist masters preserve their positions. Brahmanical media has already started salivating at the idea of what the image of Rahul Gandhi behind bars may look. But their imaginations for India are limited to only one form of class rule.
Another “Total Revolution”?
It must be recognized that Gandhi’s suspension, which comes after the Bharat Jodo yatra and Gandhi’s international sales pitch to the imperialists, is fascism’s offensive against the sharpening of this intra-bourgeoisie contradiction which may also threaten its position as the dominant force in comprador bourgeois class rule in India, in light of the growing peoples’ resistance in India. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” said Marx. Badri Raina rushes to commit this farce, by comparing Gandhi with Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) who pushed for “total revolution” against Indira Gandhi’s emergency in the 1970s through the broad coalition group Janata Party. Yet, it was that very movement which first gave a taste of state power to the predecessor of the BJP, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and brought RSS cadre Hindutva nationalists Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani to prominence. The so-called Lok Nayak (people’s leader) began his “total revolution” right at the tail end of the brutal curbing of the Naxalbari uprising, co-opting the revolutionary struggles of the masses while at the same time legitimizing the fascist militia of the RSS, openly stating, “if the RSS is fascist then so am I.” JP utilized socialist aesthetics to co-opt the revolutionary fervour that began with the Spring Thunder over India while building his platform against Indira Gandhi’s fascism by propping the other, aggressively brahmanical camp of the bourgeoisie.
The fall of the Janata Party within three years, the birth of the Bharatiya Janata Party from within its womb, and the return of the Congress is a historic lesson that a united front against fascism cannot be led by the other camp within the bourgeoisie itself. The various parties of the bourgeoisie like the Congress and AAP may find common ground in attempting to shift the nature of class rule in India but the real resistance is only a broad popular front against fascism with the alliance of all oppressed and exploited sections for the defeat of fascist rule in India, under the leadership of a people’s vanguard, not behind false idols.
by Shri Rishi, student of law at O.P. Jindal Global University
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- Dimitrov, Georgi. The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International. Paris: Foreign Languages Press, 2020.
- Raina, Badri. “Will a Penalised Rahul Gandhi Be the Nemesis of the Modi Regime?” The Wire, March 27, 2023. https://thewire.in/politics/rahul-gandhi-nemsis-modi.
- Jaffrelot, Christophe. “Why Rahul Gandhi’s Disqualification May Be a Turning Point?” The Wire, March 27, 2023. https://thewire.in/politics/why-rahul-gandhis-disqualification-may-be-a-turning-point.
- Apoorvanand. “In 1974, Jayaprakash Narayan included the RSS in his movement. India is still paying the price.” Scroll, October 11, 2021. https://scroll.in/article/1007465/in-1974-jayaprakash-narayan-included-the-rss-in-his-movement-india-is-still-paying-the-price.
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