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Fascism: Prashant Bhushan identifies malady, but doesn't prescribe remedy; plays an isolationist game

Hitler with Mussolini
By Sadhan Mukherjee*
Supreme Court Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan’s write-up on Rising Fascism in India (click HERE to read) makes an interesting reading, but I beg to disagree with him on several counts. He hangs his write-up on a single peg of history which does not apply even to all European countries.
Timothy Snyder whom he quotes seems to have an oversimplified approach to history. While he talks of European democracies degenerating into fascism, Nazism and communism, he is trying to use history to suit his choice. Was Czar’s regime in Russia a democracy? What Lenin brought about was socialism, not communism. In fact, communism never reached its working stage anywhere in the world; it remained a utopia.
Fascism also did not originate in Germany but in Italy in 1919. It was adopted by Hitler who further embellished it. Also the basic plank for the growth of fascism was the economic downturn and the distress of common masses caused by the unjust terms of the Treaty of Versailles following World War I. 
“In the regime of hunger, the world is all prose; and even the full moon appears like a burnt chapatti”, wrote Bengali poet Sukanto Bhattacharya many years ago. That’s what happened in Italy and Germany. Popular discontent seeks a way out, be it left or right. In Italy and Germany, it was the rightist way; in Russia it was the left.
Snyder talks of European democracies yielding to totalitarianism. Is that a fully correct statement? Not all countries in Europe took to fascism then, nor is it going to now. If that were so, then there wouldn’t have been the rout of rightists in Netherlands, or Brexit. 
Or, now, European liberalism would not be fighting back rightist populism (or nationalism, call it so if you will). Already in France, the results of the first round of presidential elections have put the ultra right on the back foot and on May 7 they are likely to be crushed.
As in Germany, when social democrats and communists failed to unite to stop the onslaught of NSDAP (National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei or National Socialist German Workers’ Party), in France, socialist and communist parties have failed to combine, and now the French voters have rejected the traditional ruling groups of socialist and republicans. They do not want a status quo any more. 
The French voters are also not inspired by Trump’s wall around USA or to have a Frexit in France. They want an open Europe. We must also realise that Brexit was the counter-expression of unjust rules of European Union which had hit the British workers and peasants very hard which the rightists like Nigel Farage took full advantage of. After the French Presidential election, the election to the French National Assembly will take place and its results should reconfirm the liberal premises of Europe.
It is at the same time true, that rightist forces are growing in many countries, not in European countries alone. The basic reason for that are the maladministration of previous regimes and the deprivation of common people and their economic misery. 
Let us also not misunderstand the sweep of the BJP in India. The groundwork for its ascendency lies elsewhere. The left also has been decimated in the process of anger and disillusionment.
It is however true that what Prashant Bhushan calls ‘lumpen gundaism’ is growing in our country and he has cited a number of examples. That is also the teaching of history as we have seen in various manifestations the world over.
Do not forget the Brown Shirts of Hitler or the Black shirts of Mussolini. They were incidental to Hitler and Mussolini’s rise to power. Not that a similar thing cannot happen in our country. But then it will be a military dictatorship which appears to be still a wild conjecture.
I would also point out that education to the people is a very important, if not the most important, task in national reconstruction. Political entities hardly talks about it and if they do, it is mostly lip service. NSDAP could sway the unskilled the most; it is so everywhere. Demagogy yields best results among the illiterate and the low literate.
Now what is more germane is: Why is it that a former socialist country, the beacon of the Left, the socalled Soviet Union, has degenerated so much that its main part, Russia, backed Donald Trump in his election and is now reported to be doing so in favour of French ultra rightist Marine Le Pen? History already has a pretty brutal lesson to teach us?
Prashant Bhushan has marshalled his facts correctly like a good lawyer that he is. He is citing symptoms of the disease but does not come out with a clear-cut prescription for its remedy. He is also playing an isolationist game, unfortunately.
---
*Veteran journalist. This is a rejoinder to Prashant Bhushan's article (click HERE) in www.counterview.in

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