The second half of the thirties for the Weimar Republic in Germany was marked by both aspirations and apprehensions.The rise of the Nazis,with the connivance at their political thuggery by the police,did arouse anxiety,but Hitler as yet had not earned his evil charisma.The largest group in parliament were the Social Democrats,who were denounced as ‘social fascists’ simply for not joining hands with the Communists in initiating the revolution.Nazis had begun openly to attack Jews in the streets and disrupt meetings of socialists and other democratic parties with violence.Time passed amidst uncertainty and tension,but not in utter hopelessness.
The Nazis knew their own game pretty well to rope in all reactionary and arch conservative forces,befool the quiet and timid sections of citizens and organize for a final showdown with those who cared and stood for democracy.In order to disrupt proceedings of the parliament,which were to them a sheer waste of time,they burned down the parliament building in a sham conspiracy attributed to Communists.By the time the trial ended they were on the point of seizing power.
The democratic forces played by the book, underestimating the tenacity and strength of the forces of reaction and the disarray among democrats.
Hitler,as is well known,used prevailing legal methods like parliamentary majority and use of emergency powers jacked himself and his party into a position where they could declare their revolution of installing ‘a thousand year Reich’.
So clarity of understanding and intelligent alignment of forces for defence of democracy should be the principal concern of democrats when democracy faces peril.Many people feel we are well into such a perilous stage of history,but are dismayed by the confusion among opposition ranks.
Politics is for power of course,and class and other social factors are of signal interest in any tussle for power.But these are not normal times,they are rather like the twilight years of the Weimar Republic.And power must aim pre-eminently at preserving the state in its constitutional form.Anything less focussed will only pave the way to a radical reactionary make-over of the state,which will leave no room for any opposition.
True there is extreme diversity of conditions in the country with people divided in their aims and expectations.So far the state has not fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of many communities and regions.The working people are a gravely disillusioned section of population,and their frustrations might be craftily used by fascist forces.And the much-talked-about unity is belied by some prominent parties speaking in two voices.Further,the question thrown into the face of the opposition is who will lead this motley group.Mamata Banerjee has proved to be a formidable general on her own terrain.But the claim of some starry-eyed commentators that she will be accepted all over India as the leader of the nation seems rather like a daydream.There is no doubt whatever that she will remain an asset to the opposition if they can put their act together.But she is yet to acquire the aura of an indisputable leader of a national counter-offensive against the menace of fascism.
The trouble ,as far as I can discern it is that most of the opposition leaders have no idea how things are becoming intractable every moment.They seem to expect that conventional electoral tactics will deliver this time too.Actually they are no match for fascists in rousing communal and religious sentiments.In fact their mild attempts at simulating piety might misfire to roast them.Their enemies are past masters in trapping various ethnic,religious and regional groups with suitable baits and eventually disarming them.Mamata could overcome the Motua threat because she had roused the whole of Bengal into a passionate and resolute defiance against the taunting challenge from Delhi.But this is a unique example,and can hardly be extended to the whole of India.In Congress the factionalism and the leadership feuds seem never-ending,and they smack of outside manipulation.The twenty-three dissidents,each of them with sufficient standing, have contented themselves with issuing admonitions and warnings,but seem both unwilling to and incapable of organising a challenge from the ranks.The GOP of India does have an organization in every state but it is not strong enough to prevent sundry defections of local leaders.The call for unity is weakened by suspicion of poaching from their own turf by allies!
A possible way out is to unite at least on certain issues to both put pressure on the common enemy and carry conviction in the eyes of the masses.
It might seem that people do not protest against daylight lynching of wretched members of minority communities because they broadly support this.Actually the apparent support is silence of fear.A bully must be called out if such fear is to be overcome.For he does look strong and intimidating. But once he is called out and told what he is the people will come round to condemn and challenge him.I have seen opposition leaders sympathizing,shedding tears and offering solace to victims of such violence,but seldom voice honest anger and impassioned denunciation of such crimes.
One has seen enough of sugar-coated arsenic pills doled out by masters of deception , but rarely have opposition leaders exposed the fraud to the people in ways that rouse them to a sense of the indignity and the injustice they suffer.There is room for many such methods of identifying with the people’s misery and rousing them to resistance.But these are not tried because a grave and besetting inability to feel the people’s woes,a serious disconnect with the masses,seems to weaken the bonds between them and leaders who hold out promise of relief and restitution.It is now a routine exercise to condemn Indira Gandhi for being power-hungry,but one thing that her critics miss is her ability to reach out to people even when she appeared buried under ignominy.
Perhaps they think the present regime will at worst be like the tyrants of banana republics with their hoodlum followers,who darken the skies for some time and then pass like a cloud.But this is an altogether different scenario with a determined and organized party that has supporters at the grassroots,fired by the same ghoulish ideology,and armed with powerful propaganda machines and flush with money. They are determined to stay on and bury democracy and its institutions for good.
Those in the opposition must find out what democracy means to people at the bottom of the pyramid,with their shoulders bent more and more under the weight of the oppressive,equivocating and thoroughly corrupt rule of the harlequins.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator