Social Scientist. v 26, no. 304-305 (Sept-Oct 1998) p. 1.


Graphics file for this page
Editorial Note

Aijaz AhmacTs Ved Gupta Memorial Lecture, which we publish as the lead article of the current number of Social Scientist, is remarkable inter alia for its uninhibited use of the term 'fascist' to describe the Hindutva brand of ideology and politics. He uses the terms, of course, in a somewhat supple and wideranging sense. The origin of 'fascism' in this sense is traced to the 1880s which marked the emergence of modern imperialism on the one hand, and of mass working-class parties on the other; and its project is seen as the will to fashion 'an anti-materialist conception of revolution, anti-liberal conception of nationalism, anti-rationalist critique of Modernity, anti-humanist assaults on the politics of liberation, in a rhetoric of "blood and belonging', and in the name of a glorious past that never was'. The ideologies covered under the rubric of 'fascism' are marked by the fact that they too are dedicated to making their own kind of revolution, that is, revolutions of the Far Right.

Ahmad's paper, which is a remarkable tour de force, raises, however, a number of questions. Of these, only the following two can, be mentioned here: first, while fascism as a marginal tendency may exist in society for a long time, it becomes a force to reckon with only in certain historical conjunctures; can we not then say that a more contextualised characterisation of fascism (which focusses on the class-situation that propels it to hegemony), such as what the Comintern under Dimitrov had provided, would be more useful for praxis than a characterization in terms either of the movement's own proclaimed objectives and self-perceptions, or of its general and unvarying features such as its 'culture of cruelty'? This question is important because it points to the way the fascist programme changes to cope with the conjuncture.

Secondly, can we treat fascism in the advanced countries and fascism in the third world as identical (or similar) entities, simply because of their obvious common features? What, for instance, is the relationship between third-world fascism and imperialism? In particular, can a fascist regime establish itself in the third world without the blessings of imperialism? If it cannot (and it is instructive that the Khomeini regime, which had all the features of a fascist regime except the blessings of imperialism, could not last long), then the contextualised characterisation of third-world fascism has to be made taking this aspect too into consideration.

This second question is important for answering a number of more specific questions: for example, is fascism in third-world countries like India an offshoot of anti-colonialism (a segment of the anti-colonial national movement being imbued with a fascist character), or is it a force independent of, and opposed to, the anti-colonial national movement, a force which develops an altogether different concept of the 'nation': not in opposition to



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page