In the age of neo-colonial tactics, tactical and strategic advancement of mass propaganda of fascist ideology goes hand-in-hand. Every class-based society uses different propaganda mechanisms to justify their moral and ideological positions along with cohesive forces. A state cannot purge the entirety of its class of enemies and therefore opt for using the contradiction of different classes for exploitation. Propaganda not only helps to propagate the ruling class ideology for the state, but also does the task of mass organizing work at its service. A recent incident is pertinent to this discussion, particularly that of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI) Chandigarh which has barred 36 nursing students from leaving their hostels because they skipped on a mandatory hearing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio programme, Mann Ki Baat (literally, Speaking from the Heart). Similarly, this month, schools in Dehradun ordered students to pay fines if they skipped out on attending school on Sunday to listen to Modi’s 100th Mann Ki Baat episode or even if they left the session midway for any reason. Mann Ki Baat therefore has actively become a site for organizing by the state at the level of education, serving propaganda for the state directly from its figurehead.
Media and Its Forms
But Mann Ki Baat is just one among three dominant forms of media in India. The first one, the direct and blatant mouthpieces of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is dubbed popularly as “Godi Media.” This section claims its independence solely on the premise that it is not directly run by the state, even though its private nature only serves as a poor cover-up of its pro-state servitude. The second section derives its perspective from the critical thinking schools, which talk about surface-level criticism of the current state of affairs while avoiding the base of the problem. This section of the media will never question the nature of the Indian Constitution, its bourgeois nature of ideal state structure and they often throw their support behind other camps within the bourgeoisie, from the Brahmanical ‘liberal’ sections like that of the Indian National Congress (INC) or Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) or even revisionists like Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) in the present. The third section of media is the one which works for the alternate state structure model and evaluates the present with a concrete vision for the future. This is the particular form of media which is being targeted by the ruling class media and the mouthpieces of liberal sections as well.
The purpose of this article is to discuss another form of media, of which Mann Ki Baat is an example. This ‘apolitical’ media is actually the nationalist media, where the Prime Minister conveys his vision of a one-way democracy, where he gets to address the masses directly and channel his propaganda with no way for the masses to convey their sentiments back. As pointed out above, people do not even have the choice of not listening to Modi’s ramblings, they will be fined for exercising their democratic choices! Here he talks about schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, JanDhan Yojna and even propaganda like ‘working class advancement for nation-building’ etc. The question is, why does Modi need to engage with Mann Ki Baat when so many other media forms are available at his service?
“One People, One Reich, One Führer”: Radio and Its History of Propaganda
The above quote was famous during the Nazi period of Germany. The propaganda helped the Nazi Party to establish Adolf Hitler as the only leader who thought about the German people’s well-being. Radio telecasting played an important role in building the image of Hitler as a staunch nationalist and the only hope of the country. Through this process, they won the support of the petite bourgeoisie section of the country which was convinced of the economic and war model of the Nazis and were completely trapped under the antisemitic narrative of the party.
In working class areas, big loudspeakers were set up by the Hitler to convey daily messages directly from him. Radio broadcasting only focused on slandering Jews, promoting pro-war propaganda and never talked about the conditions of the working class. Through this process Hitler projected himself as the protector of Germany and imposed an obligation on the working class to put all their efforts to develop the ‘nation.’ To achieve this massive task, the German production mechanism heavily focused on radio production at a very cheap rate. They developed radios which would only broadcast German radio channels and Hitler’s speeches, knowing well that radio was the best way to reach the most people. The media was highly censored by the Nazi party and independent media was wiped out.
In America, the same technique was implemented by Roosevelt with some specific variations. American people were largely against Japanese imperialism but were not directly opposed to German fascism. As the contradiction between these opposing camps of monopoly capitalists sharpened during the inter-imperialist conflict of World War 2, the American propaganda machinery worked in direct collaboration with different private companies who tried to prepare the American masses for the war against Germany. These radio propaganda companies started gaining profit through the mass production and circulation of radio. In the age of monopoly capital, it was easy to concentrate the entire media market into a few hands.
This mass hypnosis was fueled by famous actors and celebrities. Director Frank Capra is a prominent example of the same in the USA. This was the first time, when influential American actors and actresses were used to develop the psychology of war among the American people at large. Ads by the companies were structured in a very programmed manner to dismantle the in-depth analytical vision of the masses. To know the preference of the US people, few universities conducted fact finding surveys to find out which medium the American people preferred to get their information from on a daily basis. Almost 70% of the people voted for the radio! In India, celebrities like Kangana Ranaut, Ajay Devgn, Varun Dhawan, Arjun Kapoor, Rajnikanth, singer Asha Bosle are few who support the fascist project publicly, while others like Ravi Kishan, Sunny Deol, Dharmendra, Smriti Irani, Hema Malini, Paresh Rawal actively work as cadre of the BJP. Others like cricketer Sachin Tendulkar form ‘benevolent’ alliances with the BJP, promoting their scams like the PM-CARES fund in which the state looted hundreds of crores in the name of COVID-19 charity.
Democratic Consciousness and Mann Bi Baat Propaganda
“Sab changa si (everything is fine),” “beti bachao beti padhao (save the daughters by educating them),” “foreign investment is coming,” or even the damning “One Nation, One Identity, One People (the popular slogans used for government scheme Aadhaar and by RSS leaders),” are all slogans of the brahmanical Hindutva fascist rule. Fascism is so blatant it cannot even hide its historical commonalities with how similar the aesthetics of BJP’s slogans are to the Nazi party’s. It aims to hypnotize the masses in the name of nationalism, always utilizing the pre-existing prejudices and contradictions within society and re-fashioning them in manner that serves its chauvinistic purposes. Brahmanical order of society in India has been historically governed through the idea of “taranhars” (protectors). The ten avtars of the Hindu god Vishnu and their fundamental nature of protection is established all over India. The current avtar of Brahmanism though, serves the purpose of foreign finance capital and resource loot of India in the name of Hindutva nationalism.
Many sections of society in India talk of democratic consciousness when such discussions are brought up. It is common to hear “in India, there is no democratic consciousness in the people’s minds. They always think about their immediate needs. They have no vision of the future.” This argument may be convincing for the liberals, feudals and revisionists, those who never uphold class struggle, but the revolutionary section must consider that the development of consciousness is part and parcel of class struggle. Without class struggle, no democratic consciousness can be developed. The democratic revolution has never been accomplished by the people of India and no democratic consciousness can be developed without class struggle aimed at accomplishing this task.
Meanwhile, the dominant consciousness is derived from the ideology of Brahmanism which has developed a devotee (bhakt) generation, who readily believe propaganda and investigate less and less into matters. This devotional mindset generates idealism. The idealist lens of masses undermine their own capacities to defeat their oppressors and exploiters. This brutal nexus of semi-feudalism provides the base for the prejudiced propaganda of the current fascist regime. When Indira Gandhi said, “Garibi Hatao” (eliminate poverty), it was never her intention to do so. After a few days, she imposed emergency measures which eliminated all nominal democratic rights, because of internal conflict. These fake and vague slogans have no actual meaning for the masses. From the 70s till now, we always talked about the parameters of the poverty line. Similarly, in the present, Modi always talks about developing a USD 5-trillion economy. But how? By increasing foreign funding or by killing Muslims? If the upper 10% strata get more income, the Gross Domestic Product will increase, which is ultimately the end-point of Modi’s grand plan. But GDP is not the parameter for the whole country where 40% of its people are landless and 90% of workers are working in the informal sector and heavily under-paid.
The development of productive forces is one of the most important factors to develop the democratic consciousness of the people, which can only occur through class struggle and changing the relations of production. Those intellectuals who aspire to defeat fascism must challenge their class positions and the comfortability of their circles. They must move forward from the anti-class struggle ideologies like postmodernism, post-colonial studies and critical thinking schools and aim to develop class struggle in a manner where the oppressed and exploited classes can overthrow fascism. To defeat fascist propaganda, we must develop mass movements wherever we work. We must search for revolutionary organizations who are waging a strong struggle against feudalism and imperialism. During this struggle, we must develop an alternate model of economic, cultural and political and social advancement. Local mass organizations must try to analyze the possible alternate economic model of the area. Mere critical approach to fascism, imperialism and feudalism is not enough to smash them. It is only through the development of a real tangible alternative to the current that fascist propaganda can be defeated.
by Nishant Anand, student of law, University of Delhi
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