For many of us, “fascism” is a word found in history textbooks. Whenever we run across that word, what comes to our minds are the memories of Hitler and Mussolini, painted in black and white. The word “fascist” has its origin from the Italian word fasces, meaning a bundle of sticks or rods tied around an axe. It was a symbol for the power and sovereignty of ancient Roman emperors. It was a soldier turned journalist Benito Mussolini who started the Fascist Party in 1919 Italy. He formulated a nationalist, military-run, anti-communist totalitarian government in Italy by 1925, after 3 years of getting on to power. By the 30s, fascists took over several European countries. Among that, the noted one was the National Socialist (Nazi) revolution led by Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1933. Hitler and Mussolini, two hardcore fascists worked as partners along the same lines.
Did fascism end with dictators like Hitler and Mussolini? No. The sad reality is that it only grew onto newer pastures. During the 40s, the number of nation-states in the world was less and most of them were unstable. However, in the 60s, the number of democracies increased to thirty. According to the democracy index published in 2019 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, with the renowned British media company, Economist Group, today, out of 167 countries of the world, only around 22 countries could be counted as a full democracy.
Most of the governments exhibit anti-democratic sentiments. The Economist’s index was based on a detailed study of the governments of these countries, their political culture, electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, political parties and the functioning of governments.
Counting the points each nation received for each category, the countries were divided into four types-full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime. We need to be concerned over the present condition of democracy existing in the leading democratic republics like America and India. Both these countries fall under ‘flawed democracy’.
If as per the reports, America ranks 25th, then India holds 51st place. If we are to examine the recent trends in world politics, it is visible that most of the nations are slowly moving towards alarming fascist tendencies. Looking at the history of fascism, rooted in racial discrimination and segregation, we can better understand how the current rulers, clad in dictatorship in India and the US lean towards the Nazi movement. Fascism is not a political philosophy, but only an attitude to conquer and enjoy power. Fascists never come to power through any surgical strikes. On the other hand, they make crooked moves, convincing us, they are law-abiding citizens in the democracy. This technique can be seen in Hitler’s journey towards power, which was an amalgamation of unjust and undemocratic measures. It should be noted that Hitler built his dictatorship after removing civil servants who were unfaithful to him.
Fascist organisations had been a common sight post First World War. It can be seen on the British land which basks in the pride of defending freedom even in the twentieth century. It was Sir Oswald Mosley, infamous for his Hitler like moustache and Mussolinian mannerisms, who established the British Union of Fascist, a fascist political party in 1936. Some of his promises include opportunities to invest in the public sector, protection of wealth and actions against foreigners. Several countries also became a witness to similar movements. In India, proponents of Hindutva engaged in activities to construct political warfare based on the models put forth by Hitler and Mussolini. Even countries like Spain, Iceland, Romania, Czechoslovakia and America saw the emergence of fascist groups.
Fascists often come to power by offering promises to curb the uncertainties revolving around employment, migration and unhappy politicians. For example, in the case of Mussolini, he realized that a majority of Italians are upset about the condition of the state. He got into power by promising that he will wipe away the masters exploiting the Italians, the Bolsheviks trying to ruin their society, the politicians devoid of actions but speak and all those 35,000 government officials. He offered to “cleanse the damps” to the people of Italy. If we turn our eyes around, we can see ample examples were governments shake hands with fascist forces.
Donald Trump, who can undoubtedly be described as the wholly undemocratic President America has ever seen used fascistic models throughout his election campaigns. His major accusation was that America is becoming prey to large scale employment robberies. He made the American population believe the factories were shut and jobs were taken away by other countries due to this. A glimpse at Trump’s words and deeds during the time of the polls, and you see how well he is executing and painting America as a victim. A similar modus operandi could be seen in the run up to the 2014 and 2019 elections in India and what is being followed thereafter.
The vital point every fascist group work on is the biggest lie that humans are inherently divided into master races and lower races. Fascist philosophy breathes the utmost strange fantasy where they propose that the underprivileged are trying to overthrow the masters, and the need of the hour is the latter to unite against the others. Fascism is nothing more than a bag of lies with extreme political consequences. What fascists try is to create a façade, to consciously alter the lies.
The primary motive of fascism is to build a new empire of totalitarianism, by uprooting democracy. Fascist governments prevent the freedom of the independent press and dismantle judicial practices. Their goal is to divide; divide one single population into “us” and “they”. They give you a leader presented with a divine aura, an idolized version who is in tune with the people and the country. These symptoms are covertly visible in India today.
Although fascism was formally established in Italy in 1919, the politics it represents later spread throughout the globe. Fascism based right-wing, extreme, violent, racial politics slowly found its way into countries like Japan, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, India and France. The interesting factor is that it was known by different names in each of these places. New versions of fascism are born out of democracies and the larger than life lies uncover a post-truth politics. What the post-truth politics create is an illusion amongst the masses through its big, fat lies that have no connections with reality. By invoking a false emotional urge in the people and exploiting that emotional unrest for their political gains is what they do. What some of the present day heads and leaders are doing is no different from these.
To construct a strong defence and unity against the right-wing terrorism involving hatred, religious fanaticism, Goebbelsian tactics, dissent, violence in the name of caste, creed and race, we need to enlighten the masses about the dangers embedded in fascism. Along with that, we have to seek answers to why the fascists can awake the streets with such violence with words coated in hatred amidst ripples of confusions and dissatisfactions lingering amongst workers and the common people. Only then can we save the nations, including India from being brutally robbed of democracy.
The writer is the the Middle East Convenor of Indian Overseas Congress.
Disclaimer: The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of N4M.