Reading Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism in 21st Century India

Written by Y Venu Gopal Reddy | Published on: March 22, 2018
Fascism has, of late, become the hot topic for discussion among standard non standard academics, political scientists and activists as well. The animated discussion within the Communist  Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M) at its last Central Committee meeting and the consequent release of Draft Political Resolution (DPR) this debate fuelled this debate further.  There have been a lot of references to the theorization of comrade Prakash Karat, former General Secretary, CPI(M)’s qualification of today’s BJP as a mere authoritarian entity, having a close working relation with the semi-fascistic RSS. This has also come under severe attack from the liberal as well as Marxist intellectuals. Reading into both the versions within the date, (including arguments published in The Hindu and The Telegraph) has left me in some confusion.

Both versions carry a strain of historicity and fact. This motivated me to delve deep into the archives and indulge in some additional reading. Original proponents of fascism are the best references. Hence I chose to read the Doctrine of Fascism originally propounded by Mussolini, the architect of original first ever fascist State in Italy, years ahead of Second World War. These are the features of so called Classical Fascism.

Some may doubt the source of the text I am quoting below. For their benefit, I am stating that the text is sourced from a 1935 publication Fascism Doctrine and Institutions, downloaded by an official from the then Fascist Government’s website. None can explain basic ingredients of  Fascism better than this, I believe.

Mussolini arrived at a point where he believed that in order to see that Fascism does not die, it must provide itself with a doctrine. He also credited himself as the one who dictated this small 20 page text, aimed at giving it universality. This he felt, is one of the basic tenets of all doctrines representing a moment in the history of human thought. With this doctrine, he not only wanted to immortalize the concept of Fascism as an action and thought but also called upon it’s followers to use this doctrine as a guide to revise, correct, enlarge, develop Fascism, should the need arise.

Mussolini also holds that Fascism as a spirit is universal in its nature but the institutions are nation specific. That is why he clearly states, “It (Fascism) has a form correlated to contingencies of time and space; but it has also an ideal content which makes it an expression of truth…” The key elements were discussed, deliberated and formulated through School of Fascist Propaganda.

Taking on the doctrinaire approach, prevalent by mid 20th century as an accepted norm for any idea intended to be transformed into force, Mussolini categorically states, “lack of a forma system as used by the disingenuous adversaries as an argument for proclaiming Fascism incapable of elaborating a doctrine at the very time when the doctrine was being formulated..” Fascism is not the nursling of a doctrine previously drafter at a desk, it was born of the need of action, and was action, it was not a party but in the first few years, an anti-party movement. It is a doctrine of faith. For those who are looking for Classical Fascism, the words, fascism is not a doctrine but action born out of need of the action shall be a chilling reminder.
This is in contrast to all other established universal doctrines, theories, postulations beginning with Socrates to Galileo to Darwin, Newton, Marx. These were postulated in their standard form which are available, not only to the followers, but also to critiques for generations. However, doctrines like Fascism preferred to be postulated by the proponents orally as a basis for action to their cadres. This is a structural, and key, difference between egalitarian ideologies and in-egalitarian ideologies. To list one key difference, all egalitarian ideologies with liberative content are well structured theories preserved in texts that can be sourced back to one single person. However,  all in-egalitarian ideologies are structured on grand narratives. This grand narrative keeps metamorphosing into several forms and structures. It is difficult to locate or source these grand narratives to a single authority, person or a source. It is obvious that these propose to chain humans rather than seek to liberate them.

Let us look at the main thrust of Doctrine of Fascism. Under Fascism, the conception of State is fundamentally the conception of life. It is only within this construct that the principle expressions of Fascism such as Party organisation, system of education and discipline can be understood. The concept of man as social animal laid the foundation for understanding individuals as part and parcel of society; in their constant interaction they affect society and getting affected by society, too. In contrast to this, within the fascist doctrine, man appears merely as individual, standing by himself, self centered, subject to natural law, inclined towards selfish momentary pleasure, bound by moral law and common tradition, renounces self interest. Accordingly, “the life as conceived by Fascist is serious, austere and religious, all its manifestations are poised in a world sustained by moral forces and subject to spiritual responsibilities”. Thus Fascism is opposed to all individualistic abstractions of 19th century materialism and opposed to all utopias and inventions. These lines from Doctrine can help us to assess the style and structure of RSS- BJP organizations as well as the recent statements by Modi’s cabinet colleagues against Darwinism, science and technology, rational approach etc.

There are interesting findings about the State from this doctrine. We are all well aware about the Modi’s 2014 slogan of minimum governance and maximum government. It is only when we look at the fascist conception of state, that we can begin to understand this slogan as a ploy to attract the fund raisers, that is national and international monopoly capitalists. We shall also look at the fact that the State under neoliberalism is synonymous with cronyism and corruption. This will help us to contextualize Modi’s slogan of minimum state, which appears a corruption free administration in the eyes of common man whereas its original intent is corruption unregulated by State. Thus we have our Lalit Modis, Vijay Mallyas and now Nirav Modis and Mehul Choksis are few of them those who understood well Modi’s slogan. Bankruptcy code,  vajrayudh against corruptly piled up non performing assets in the eyes of common man whereas it is flute in the hands of Lord  Sri Krishna, for corporate as the Code can curtail the repayment amount as high as 70% of original of principle plus interest, of course, it will be implemented case by case manner.

The fascist conception of State is primarily anti individualistic. Fascist conception state rebukes the libertarian social contract theory that shaped bourgeoisie state and states that it is not the nation that creates the State … rather it is the State that creates the nation. Thus, State creating a nation through reconfiguring history is key element in fascistic strategy. This leads us to conclude totalitarianism is integral to fascism. For Fascists, the State is not only higher form of expression of personality but also a spiritual to the core. Fascist State is not only law giver and a founder of institutions but an educator and promoter of spiritual life. And we have the well developed concept of Hindu Rashtra which synthesizes unit inclusive of all values – interprets, develops and potentiates the whole life of people.

One more important core element of Fascism is its stress on purity, quality of nation rather than its compositeness. When we talks of purity, it could be racial purity, religious purity, or a kind of Plato’s nation governed by enlightened minds of handful few people, or purity in the political thought, which in essence opposes the multi party system and refutes the existence of multiple ideas championed by multiple parties in democracy. We can now understand the fascistic ideological underpinnings of Modi’s slogan and RSS strategy migrating from Congress mukt Bharat to Opposition mukt Bharat.

In the Doctrine of Fascism, a clear role is assigned to peace. It generally does not believe in the possibility or utility of perpetual peace. It strongly argues, War alone keys up all human energies to their maximum tension and sets the seal of nobility on those peoples who have the courage to face it. Anti peace tendencies of Fascism does not stop here. It “believes now and always in sanctity and heroism, that is to say – an acts in which no economic motive – remote or immediate –is at work. This explains the basis of RSS belief in mob violence and using fear as an important element in increasing its legitimacy.

For fascism, the State is absolute and groups relative. Individuals and groups are admissible in so far as they come within the State. The Fascist loves their neighbor but the neighbor does not stand for a vogue understanding. It will have nothing to do with universal embraces.  Fascism also denies the immutable and irreparable character of theclass trgugles which is the natural outcome of the economic conception of history, above all denies the class struggle as preponderating agent in social transformations. This means that fascism denies liberty, equality and fraternity, the foundations of libertarian philosophy. The libertarian maxim of society which is freedom of individuals, for Fascism, is not in conformity with nature’s plan.

Fascism ridicules democracy as means that degenerates. Fascism eulogises heroic capitalism, which in essence, focuses on the primitive expropriation. In Mussolini’s words, “ (Fascists) have constituted a Corporative and Fascists state, the state of national society, a State which concentrates, controls, harmonizes and tempers the interests of all social classes, which are thereby protected in equal measure.” In this formulation, protecting by equal measures is the key word which means, the Rule of Law applies equally to all the subjects, whether  they are expropriated or exploited. Thus the Fascistic state precisely preserves the status quo in property relations. For fascism, the state is fully grown out Corporative state. Fascism stand for a new principle in the word, for sheer, categorical, definitive antethesis to the world of democracy, plutocracy, free-masonry, to which the world still abides by the fundamental principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.

From the above contextualized reading, we can conclude as follows. Fascism is backward looking, theocratic, exclusionary, anti liberatarian, anti-equalitarian, anti liberal, anti socialistic, ethno religious, believes in spiritualis, anti-trade union, anti  democractic state persevering the property rights, status quo in economic aspects of life, surrendering individual to State, a nation creating agency, striving for a State building protecting the profit motives and primitive expropriations. In a multi cultural and multi religious society like India, it stands for purity of religion, purity of race, purity of thought, purity of Party, austere, sacrificial, based on postulations of individual leaders instead of well laid out doctrines. These might be the reasons for the Western media to term RSS as Hindu nationalist force instead of indentifying it as fascistic force.

This makes us clear that though today’s BJP ministers vouched by the sovereignty of Indian constitution, they, both in letter and spirit despise Constitution, the Law of the Land and defies and stifles the constitutionally running institutions which are being run based on the egalitarian and libertarian principles which are against the core foundations of fascistic principles. It also makes it clear that merely by looking at their outwardly appearance, we can’t judge and characterize them. There is more in their words and deeds than what is revealed through their postulations. Hence looking for Classical Fascism in 21st century is a futile attempt.

That is why I am motivated to quote the following, which is religious in nature but secular in practice. No one can take a dip twice in the same waters. Though you may not be changing your feet from the ghats, the water flowing through your feet will keep changing. New water flows. But the river remains the same. Merely because we are standing in the same river, we should not feel content that we are taking dip in the same waters. For example, in the wake of 1929 great depression caused by the finance capital’s imperial hegemony, which is the highest stage of capitalism, the then Fascists opposed and criticised finance capitalism, admonished Capitalism by staying that it served its historical duty. If we come to a conclusion, while endeavoring to see Classical Fascism, unless we won’t name it as fascism unless it opposes Capitalism, it would be foolish on our part.