Dictators often infantilize people. They portray the people as their children, and themselves as great patriarchs. Stalin to Chacha Nehru to Nasser, many have presented themselves as the authoritative father figure. At present, Xi Jinping is repeating the same, presenting himself as the Communist (or Confucian?) Father of the Chinese nation.
Modi and Trump seem to be great exceptions to this general authoritarian trait; forget infantilizing people, they rather infantilize themselves.
How do we explain this peculiar deviation from a Marxist standpoint?
It has nothing to do with the ‘deviant personalities of these two buffoons’ as many try to make out; one has to look at the character of the ruling classes in both the countries for a valid explanation. The ruling classes in both the countries have one thing in common; both ardently deny their most obvious identitarian trappings, the American ruling class of its Whiteness and the Indian ruling class of its Jatitva (not Hindutva). If the modus operandi of the American ruling class is race denial, caste denial is its Indian counterpart’s.
Race denial in America and caste denial in India have been exercised through supremacist group’s pretension of non-knowledge. Raise race to a White American or caste to an Indian Savarna, they immediately become innocent kids who do not know anything about themselves and the society in which they live in. This often has been wrongly described as ‘race blindness’ or ‘caste blindness’ by various scholars. Wrongly because there is nothing ‘blind’ about it. Rather, it is a conscious, collective enacting of a pure ideological move, to be repeated and reproduced ad verbatim by most members of the supremacist group, cutting across ideological lines. These are the usual one-liners of the supremacists: “I never experienced caste/race”; “Caste/race is a thing of past, isn’t it?”; “I have a Dalit/Black friend”; “its capitalism, not race/caste, stupid”. In brief, the response is not meant for infantilizing the Other, but themselves. The constant self-infantilizationby Modi and Trump is only the tip of the iceberg; it’s the hegemonic strategy of the supremacists, enacted through a conscious disavowal of any knowledge of the supremacist identity they otherwise are proud of and hold onto.
However there is a double contradiction in this act of self-infantilization; they would continue to claim that they are superior, and act like one, against all material evidence though, still while publicly performing infantilism. Look at Modi/Trump’s belief in their superiority and how their millions of bhakts reproduce it!
While supremacism is constitutive of all fascist ideologies, all supremacist ideologies do not necessarily lead to fascism. Fascism takes some supremacist beliefs too seriously and attempts to forcibly create a new social and political order, to actualize the supremacist vision, which would obviously not correspond to the material reality.
In other words, Fascism is an ideology of imagined group superiority, to be implemented by force, with enormous mass mobilization against the perceived inferiors. Such imagined group superiority may have no material basis; rather all material pointers may point against the imagination. Still, the group may hold onto their beliefs and attempt to mold the material conditions forcefully to prove their superiority. That’s why fascism is against both capitalism and socialism, because it attempts to create a social and economic order based on a belief that has no material basis. Fascism is the most anti-materialist ideology, and any attempt to materialize it would require the physical destruction of the designated enemy-inferior.
Aryan Jatitva is the supremacist ideology that defines Indian fascism. White Aryanism was the supremacist ideology that characterized the Nazi Germany, which also attempted a quick construction of a modern caste system in Germany/Europe, which took thousands of years in India, by designing the Jew as the constitutive figure of Untouchable. Aryan Jatitva of Indian fascism is not content with the existing ‘Hindu’ Untouchables, they want to convert Muslim as the constitutive figure of Untouchable.
The Supremacism of the Indian Left
The Indian Left is neither free from the Aryan Jatitva nor it has understood Aryan Jatitva as the supremacist ideology that defines Indian fascism. Therefore they are unable to see the untouchablisation of the Muslims. Consciously or not, they propagate a Leftist Aryan Jatitva, wherein the Upper Caste comrades are considered superior and the Left understanding of the Indian situation as far better, against all evidence out there.
See a few sample quotes:
“Any weakening of the Left weakens the democratic revolution in our country and hence our march to “modernity. India’s march to modernity requires not 8,9,10,or 11 per cent growth rate; it requires a carrying forward of the democratic revolution. This is the touchstone by which all political formations have to be judged,and on this criterion the Left,notwithstanding all its weaknesses,emerges superior to all other political formations.” (P.Patnaik, Indian Express, 17 March 2011).
“The task of achieving opposition unity to defeat fascism is therefore even more complex than mere seat-sharing. The Left alone can take the lead in achieving this task, for at least three reasons: first, of all the forces in the country, it is the one most implacably opposed to fascism (which the fascists themselves implicitly concede while dubbing all their opponents “Left”). Second, it alone sees the link between neo-liberalism and fascism, or more generally understands the political economy of the rise of fascism and hence can think beyond an opposition unity based merely on seat-sharing (important though that is). Third, in principle at any rate, what matters for the Left is not “party interest” but “people’s interest”, for which the party can sacrifice its own perceived immediate interest” (P. Patnaik, The Wire, 9 Oct 2018)
“Imagine if there were no Left in India. Would anyone pay attention to the voice of the worker and the peasant, the voice of the dispossessed and the frustrated? Would anyone amplify their dreams and desires, their aspirations for a good life?…That ‘difficulty’ is the place where the Left lives. Without its efforts, would humanity survive?”. (V. Prashad and S. Deshpande , The Hindu, 16 April 2019).
Aren’t these extremely tall claims, completely detached from the reality (of the Left) in India?
Indian Left, as it ducks and crawls now, is a spent force. Indian Leftists have not yet developed a descent critique of the Indian state and society, nor done a single significant class analysis of the ruling classes in India, and nowhere close to understanding caste too. Leftists have miserably failed to get close to Dalits and Muslims in opposing Indian fascism, the primary victims of Indian fascism. (Leftists are still debating whether it is fascism, semi-fascism or neo-fascism). The link that leftists see between neoliberalism and fascism is the most misleading; neoliberalism has never been successfully implemented in India, despite the rhetoric, rather, India continues to be a wefareist economy, unequally in different regions though weakened. It is the Leftists who mislead the whole country that fascism is a ploy of capitalists to divert attention from real issues; the reality is that fascism has almost ruined capitalist development in the country, and capitalists too have been the victims of fascist crimes, Indian economy is being dismantled sector by sector; individual (quasi)capitalists may have benefited from Modi here and there, but capitalists as a class, especially the national bourgeoisie, are at the receiving end of fascist rule. The Indian left does not even represent ‘peoples’ interest’; it is limited to a few regions and the struggles of the proletarian and farmer aristocracy or even the concerns of the progressive sections of upper and middle classes.
When it comes to actual political struggle, what is the actual merit of the Left?
The Left has not been on the forefront of any important struggle in India for long; the leftist trade unions and agricultural organizations are mostly composed of Upper Caste or Upper Shudra workers and farmers and their struggles are mostly limited to protecting their sectoral interests, for instance, bank workers, academics or farmers have not been mobilizing for the Bahujan working population. The great majority of the workers are still in the informal sector, wherein the Left has no considerable presence, and the issues of landless Adviasi and Dalit peasants and the class aspirations of their children are being articulated by the Bahujan organizations or by the Maoists. The Left front governments have a history of unleashing state repression on such movements.
What the Left has actually done in the last five years to oust fascists from state power, except a farmers’ rally and a women’s wall in Kerala? Contrary to what the metropolitan intellectuals of the Indian Left claim internationally, the farmers’ mobilization was a work of hundreds of organizations and independent activists, mainly from Maharashtra, a great majority of them is not part of the Communist Left, and the great majority of the participants would not even vote for Left candidates!The farmers’ rally was more symbolic than substantive, as it did not succeed in forcing the government into policy change. The women’s wall in Kerala was a defensive struggle against the quick consolidation of fascists on Sabarimala issue, which too was possible because of an umbrella coalition of major caste organizations in Kerala; besides we are yet to see how much political capital the fascists have gained from Sabarimala, one thing we know for sure is that they have recruited thousands of cadres and tilted the state towards the right. In few pockets in Rajasthan and Himachal, the Left has been successful in mobilizing Upper Shudra farmers, which is not a small achievement.
But the failings of the Left are more glaring compared to whatever little they have gained or defended. The Left has terribly failed in Tripura and in West Bengal in countering the fascists. It has not been able to protect Dalits and Muslims, nor have they been able to create a political platform that would attract the Bahujan laboring masses or would highlight their issues. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the Left would not even bag more than twenty seats, even by the most optimistic projection. Besides, the armed left, that cannot distinguish Congress from BJP, too has been completely ineffective against defending people from the fascist attacks, they have miserably failed to punish even ordinary cow vigilantes who have lynched Muslims in public, even in a state like Jharkhand where Maoists have considerable sway, a point noted by Areeb Rizvi.
Despite all these failings, where this supremacist grand posturing comes from, if not from Jatitva? Are the bhakts of Indian Left any different from the bhakts of Modi?
The bhakts of the Indian Left now want Kanhaiya, an average student activist from the brutally oppressive Bhumihar Brahmin caste, to be the Grand Hero of Indian peoples. What is Kanhaiya compared to Chandrashekhar Azad who had successfully taken the anti-fascist fight to fascist citadels of Hindi heartless lands and made supreme sacrifices for mobilizing the Bahujans against BJP? But one hardly see any Leftist or liberal rooting for Azad, the Proud Chamar!
The Hindu Communists and their bhakts have a double identitarian problem; first, they are trapped in their own savarna identity concerns (marked by anxieties over reservation and Bahujan assertion) and second, in the identity concerns of traditional communism (marked by symbolisms of red, party, hammer-sickle etc.). Both enable them to feel and propagate that they are the superior opponents, against all evidence, of Modi regime.
What Kanhaiya has got in him other than being a good orator, which Indian college doesn’t have one?Electing someone for his oratory skills is as good as choosing a pet dog for its biting skills. In 2014, many were smitten by someone else’s oratory skills and the entire country has got bitten by mad dogs.
It seems that Indian Left is trying to project the 2019 elections as a Kanhaiya vs. Modi battle. It satisfies their need for symbolic victories, and enables them to evade the question of actually defeating the fascists. This is their battle of ego. The JNU episode that brought fame to Kanhaiya itself was fascist ploy to dilute the raging spirit of the Rohit Vemula Movement which was being fast consolidated across India. Rather than focusing on the goals of the Rohith Vemula Movement, the Left fell flat for the fascist trap and opportunistically used the witch-hunt to further divert the attention from the Bahujan cause.
Being completely insensitive to the ongoing fascist process of untouchablisation of Muslims, CPI has even dared to, in an ultimate supremacist gesture, demand the RJD-led Mahagathbandhan to withdraw its Muslim candidate, Dr. Tanweer Hassan from the contest! The same was repeatedly demanded by their left-liberal bhakts too. What these left supremacists fail to see is that having one more Muslim in Indian parliament in fascist times is a thousand time more revolutionary than getting an accidental politician elected.
However, the Indian Left is so hungry for identitarian symbolic victories, it has squandered a lion share of its intellectual and material resources on Kanhaiya’s victory, why? Leftists want to celebrate the victory of Kanhaiya as the symbolic victory of the Left supremacism; if he is defeated, the blame would go to the backwardness of the Bahujans. Both ways, the Bahujan politics would irreversibly be discredited and crucially, the anti-fascist fight would be further misguided.
To defeat the fascist idea of untouchablisation of Muslims, and to save the Indian Left from its identitarian symbolic politics, the Bahujans, especially Muslims, have a moral and political responsibility to defeat Leftist and Rightist Jatitvavadis in Begusarai.
Kuriakose Mathew is a PhD Candidate at IIT Bombay, Mumbai