Who is a fascist and what makes for a fascist party? And, is fascist and fascistic the same? The communist circles in India are battling these questions since former CPM general secretary, Prakash Karat, wrote in this newpaper that “in India today, neither has fascism been established, nor are the conditions present — in political, economic and class terms — for a fascist regime to be established”. He characterised the Modi government as exhibiting “authoritarianism” and not “fascism”. Karat’s exercise in theory has divided the communist camp, leaving followers who had already spotted the march of fascism in India upset, if not aghast.
Party chief Sitaram Yechury walked the tightrope on Thursday when he said though the fascism of the Adolf Hitler kind hasn’t arrived but the present situation could lead up to that. While the intelligentsia has been polite and not taking names in the debate, young Kanhaiya Kumar, ignored propriety — and the right vocabulary — to exhort the “comrade” to retire to New York if he didn’t want to fight.
Cut the ideological claptrap, it becomes clear the debate is about whether the CPM could ally with the Congress against the BJP or not. It is anybody’s guess if a debate that raged in Europe in the 1930s need to be revisited to decide on poll allies. At a time when the party has been reduced to irrelevance in most parts of the country, it calls for enormous fortitude for leaders to engage in verbal jousts and fight spectres. It also reveals ignorance of how much the political dynamic in the country has changed.
Terms and concepts that had limited popular appeal even in the heydays of Soviet empire are unlikely to charge up people in an era of coalitions built around new identities and forms of empowerment. What new ideas do the CPM have to offer to the restive youth, Dalits or minorities who seem to be on the lookout for new platforms and fresh leadership?
Just as the first generation of communists failed to understand the power of nationalism, regional and communal identities, their successors too seem to miss the woods for the trees.