Banner: Berlin – Monument to the Polish soldier and the German anti-fascist. Photo: hydebrink, Shutterstock
Shafiur Rahman British Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker 21 Nov. 2022
There is, to misuse some words, a spectre haunting the world. We have Europe’s far-right parties. Some are newly installed and revelling in the exercise of power and putting working people on the poverty line, and making scapegoats out of vulnerable people. We have demagogues running amok in India. White supremacy remains alive and kicking in the US. And there is Russian and Chinese totalitarianism.
In these times, I like the opportunity to exchange ideas and to meet new people in some hope of building something that will encourage people not to despair and to be able to fight and to drive change through solidarity. From time to time, and right on cue, FORSEA has brought people together in a specially curated day of analysis, commentary, poetry and music. People with spirit, that is. Those who are prepared to stand up and be counted. “After Mussolini: A warning against future proto-fascisms” was such an event. I learned a lot and the speakers and singers underlined our collective moral obligation to those who are close to us and to people who are of a different race, class or ethnicity or society than we are.
Hindus for Human Rights, and Against #FarRight Hindutva
Sunita Viswanath Executive Director, Hindus for Human Rights, Washington, DC Originally delivered as prepared remarks for FORSEA Public Event on 17 November 2022
Sunita has worked for over 30 years in women’s rights and human rights organizations. Sunita co-founded Hindus for Human Rights in June 2019.
I’m honored to be speaking with all of you here today and representing Hindus for Human Rights. As many of you may know, Hindus for Human Rights provides an explicitly Hindu voice to fight against the rise of Hindu nationalism and support minority communities across South Asia. I co-founded Hindus for Human Rights in 2019 in response to the reelection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP. My co-founders and I realized very few, if any, Hindu American organizations were speaking out against caste and Hindu nationalism.
Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva, emerged as India’s answer to European fascist movements in the early 20th century. Hindutva’s founding fathers (and they were fathers) visited Benito Mussolini’s Italy and Adolf Hitler’s Germany to take notes on how fascist leaders organized their political movements. K.B. Hedgewar took inspiration from Mussolini’s black shirts and Hitler’s brown shirts to create the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Even today, the RSS’s training camps, and similar training camps by Hindutva paramilitary groups, like the Bajrang Dal, bear a striking resemblance to the footage we’ve seen of the Hitler Youth.
Just like the black and brown shirts of Mussolini and Hitler, Hindutva’s khakhi shorts are misogynists whose violence and brutality is unleashed on all women and girls, particularly Muslim and Dalit women and girls. The biggest tell of Hindutva misogyny is that even Goddesses are undermined: their favorite God Lord Rama never has his wife Sita by his side. And they have no room in their hearts or their movement for the many fierce forms of Devi Maa, the Mother Goddess who rages against the brutality of men towards women and the earth, destroying the perpetrators of atrocities to keep the universe in balance.
The similarities didn’t stop there. M.S. Golwalkar, another Hindutva founding father, glorified Hitler and even remarked that the Holocaust provided a constructive lesson for Hindu nationalists trying to ethnically cleanse the subcontinent. Hindutva leaders wanted India to become a fascist state, and that goal endures today.
For a long time, Hindu nationalism operated as a fringe movement that wreaked terror on India’s population. During that time, though, leaders of the movement methodically carved a path to the mainstream, and now, India’s government is led by a lifelong and ardent RSS supporter, Narendra Modi. In this position, Modi has stacked his government with fellow Hindu nationalists, and together, they have cracked down on anyone who dares criticize the government’s project to transform India into a Hindu nationalist state.
Through the use of anti-terror laws, such as the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act to arbitrarily arrest critics of Hindutva, the introduction of state-level anti-conversion laws and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Indian government clearly wants to silence and persecute minorities, especially Muslims. At the same time that the Indian government has cracked down on critics of Hindutva, the Indian government has allowed people to attack minority communities with impunity. This is unsurprising for a government led by the same man who, as Chief Minister, refused to intervene when Hindu mobs terrorized Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat pogroms. When Hindutva mobs repeated the violent pogroms of 2002 in Delhi in 2020, Modi said nothing. In December 2021, when Hindu leaders called for the genocide of Muslims, Modi stayed silent. Over the course of his career, Modi refuses to denounce anti-minority violence, and he knows that his strategic silence is tacit approval for the violence.
From the grassroots to the highest levels of power, Hindu nationalists have systematically dismantled India’s democratic institutions. Modi and his government have also consolidated power similar to other far-right leaders, like Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orban, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Benjamin Netanyahu. However, the Hindu nationalist movement has an additional avenue to consolidate its power – the Hindu diaspora.
In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere, Hindutva organizations have increased their presence in Hindu communities and expanded their power as supposed representatives of the Hindu community. In fact, other than Hindus for Human Rights, hardly any other Hindu organizations speak out against Hindutva and Islamophobia. Instead, many other Hindu organizations have aligned with fascist thought leaders, like Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer, to cement Hindutva’s place in the global fascist ecosystem.
There was a Daram Sansad or religious gathering of hundreds of Hindu renunciants in the holy city of Haridwar last December, where there was an open call for a genocide against Muslims. These same so-called holy men and women released to the press, just in time for India’s 75th anniversary this past August, a draft constitution which tells us their vision for the India they are on the fast track to creating: The overall framework of the constitution is birth-based caste. The laws and policies are based on the Treta Yuga, the age when Lord Rama was on earth. And in this Hindu Nation or Rashtra – or rather Hindutva Rashtra – Muslims and Christians have no vote. These religious extremists and hatemongers are routinely dismissed by Hindu community members as fringe elements – but one of them has said in the press, “we are the sadhus (holy men) of the BJP. BJP is our crown.”
The rising Islamophobia in the Hindu diaspora, the Indian flag which was part of the Jan 6th 2020 attack on the US Capitol, the bulldozer in the Edison NJ India Day Parade, the communal riots in Leicester UK, and the RSS flag which was raised on Parliament Hill in Canada, are all indications that the consequences of allowing the Indian government to continue on its path of Hindu authoritarianism will be felt across the globe.
Hindutva is perhaps the greatest threat to democracy on the planet today, and the fight against fascism hinges on its failure.
A Few Key Elements of Fascism: An A-typical Case of Japan
Professor of International Politics, Faculty of International Law Gakushuin University, Tokyo, Japan
Fascism needs time to be born
(1) It takes time for a nation to conceive fascism, because fascism aims at not simple patriotic nationalism but the purification of a nation. Whether Japan experienced fascism is debatable, but it is true that Edo period of Japan in the 18th century had a process of researching on the original nature of the Japanese. It is in the 18th century that some Japanese intellectuals began to raise a pathbreaking question; What was Japan like before the arrival of Buddhism and Confucianism? These scholars of Japanese literature (kokugaku, 国学) read through very old Japanese texts and found the pre-Confucianism, pre-Buddhism period of Japan qualitatively more valuable than Chinese civilization, because the original Japanese civilization was more true to the human nature. This may be comparable to the Renaissance in Europe. There was a scholar in this school who proposed that Japan should occupy some vulnerable parts of Asia such as the Philippines and Manchuria. Just when Korea was internalizing China-centered view of the world, Japan was beginning to see China as a periphery.
(2) The end of Tokugawa Shogunate is in part a result of this school of scholars who idealized ancient and genuine Japanese-ness under the emperor’s rule. This leads to the movement at the end of Edo period rejecting all outsiders. And Tokugawa Shogunate’s failure to do so meant the rise of the support for the emperor as an alternative ruler. Soon the Japanese belatedly learned that the west was formidable, and the self-centered view of Japan began to sleep. But it did not die.
Fascism is a reaction against humiliation
(1) Fascism looks at the future and the past. The present is humiliating, like Germany after WWI, like Italy after its defeat in Ethiopia. The glory of the past must be revived in the future. Fascism is an anachronistic application of the past upon the complex present. The Meiji government was heading toward westernization and building modern bureaucracy, parliamentary system, and business community with the emperor at the top of the state. Modern Japan was never directly ruled by the emperor. But the social crises following the depression in the 1920s, especially human trafficking in villages, deepened the military’s disappointment in the existing democratic government.
(2) Humiliation for Japan came also from the arms reduction process after WWI. Despite the rise of Japan, Japan was not ranked high in the London Naval Treaty. The Japanese military, considered it as humiliation and wished to topple a democratically elected government which agreed on the treaty. Behind this slight of democracy was a loophole of the Meiji Constitution that the military was to be ordered by the emperor. The military used this clause to assert that the government could not dictate the military.
Fascism is a movement in permanent evolution
(1) Fascism does not start with covering the whole country. It is born as a wish growing big. The movement may be contained or crushed. So there can be a view that Japan never had fascism, because it was born as a movement only in a part of the military and never succeeded in grabbing power with the way intended. A part of the Japanese military attempted coups to be followed by mass support. They failed and the perpetrators were punished. But the remaining part of the military extended its influence more cautiously.
(2) After the series of failures of coup plans and attempts, a new move began from afar. It was the adventurous military operation of Japan’s Kwantung army in Manchuria in defiance of the commander in chief. The Kwantung army whose task was protecting the Manchurian Railway occupied the entire part of Manchuria without any direction from Tokyo. It was a tail wagging not only the whole Japanese army but whole Japan. The preceding failed coup plans and attempts inside Japan ignited a new military movement outside Japan as a solution to domestic crises.
The metamorphosis of the movement and purified Japanese-ness
(1) The problem for this evolution is that as the sphere of Japan expands, the new world for Japan is becoming rapidly diverse. Japan whose image was purified by Edo scholars swallowed Okinawa, Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, China, SE Asia. Japanese military was not yet ready to find a new principle to relate with these new regions as a new empire. This raises an interesting question: can fascism maintain an empire?
(2) An alternative way of giving legitimacy to Japan at this stage was to argue that Japan was liberating Asia from colonial powers. This was a job taken by intellectual ideologues. But the idea of liberation conflicted with the preceding idea of Japan as the cream of Asian society. And Japan expanded faster than the Japanese could learn about the equality of nations. The majority of the Japanese rank and file soldiers, brutal among themselves, could not relate with the other Asians as equals.
Fascism may be comparable to a human life. It takes time to be born. It is born pure and takes in too many alien elements as it grows. It must eat to survive, and its body eventually collapses. A mutant fascism may be one that hibernates, like Franco Spain and North Korea. If Japan’s military movement is seen as fascism, it is rather a set of movements searching for whatever exit adventurously, in response to the national sense of stagnation in the 1920s, with its pride nurtured in Edo period and without any single dictatorial leader.
The New Nazism
Gregory Stanton Founding President, Genocide Watch November 17, 2022
I will begin with the old University of Chicago football cheer:
“Define your terms!”
What is Fascism?
Fascism has six essential attributes:
Opposition to democracy.
Rejection of universal human rights.
Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, Founding President, Genocide Watch
Nazism and its state-fascist communist variant are not opposites. They are twin brothers. The so-called left-right spectrum is a systematically misleading expression. The political spectrum is really a circle, with one axis, openness to change, and the other axis, tolerance for liberty.
I do not accept the Marxist theory that capitalism is the origin of fascism. In fact, state-fascist Marxist communist states have murdered millions more people than nations with capitalist economies.
I also reject the Leninist theory that only capitalism results in imperialism. In fact, the only remaining classical empires are the Russian Empire, a post-communist empire, and the Chinese Empire, a communist empire.
Nazis, communists, colonialists, religious zealots, and My-Country-First nationalists have no tolerance for liberty. They are freedom’s foes. They drag whole nations down into the dark dungeons of tyranny.
Nazism replaced the Christian religion with worship of the Nazi party and the state. Nazis made genocide state policy. The Holocaust murdered six million Jews and another six million Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, and other “inferior races.”
Communism replaced the worship of God with worship of the communist party and the state. Intolerant atheism became the communist state religion.
When Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Regime, Mussolini’s Fascists, and Japan’s Empire were defeated in 1945, many hoped that Nazism and Fascism were vanquished. But it took years for Spain’s Franco and the racist colonial empires of Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal to fall.
The most murderous of all genocidal empires, the state-fascist Soviet Union, lasted until 1991. It murdered sixty million people. The second most deadly empire, Communist China slaughtered over forty million people. Maoism’s variant in Cambodia murdered two million, a quarter of the Cambodian people. North Korea murdered millions more. It began by murdering five hundred thousand Christians and continues to send all Christians to its vast gulag.
America still supports genocidal monarchs and dictators around the globe. In Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Central America.
Today Fascist and Communist regimes again rule half the people of the world. And they are gaining.
China commits genocide against Tibetans and Uyghurs with impunity. It has built a high-tech totalitarian world with cameras, artificial intelligence, and facial recognition that George Orwell could only imagine.
Russia’s Putin is destroying entire Ukrainian cities and murdering and forcibly displacing their people in a new form of genocide, Urbicide, the intentional destruction of cities, substantial parts of the Ukrainian nation.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates destroy Yemeni cities with American Raytheon smart bombs and finance jihadist Islam while controlling Islam’s holiest places.
Iran sponsors terrorists around the world while it declares its intent to destroy Israel.
India’s Modi and his BJP exclude Muslims from their Hindutva program to convert India into a Hindu state.
Here in America, Donald Trump’s attempted coup d’état came close to destroying American democracy. Trump preaches racism, hatred and fear of Muslims, division of Americans into true patriots and traitors. His narcissistic personality disorder created the Big Lie that he did not lose the 2020 election. He has trapped the Republican Party into a cult of personality addicted to election denial.
Now Trump, the Mussolini of Mar-a-Lago, has announced that he will again run for President. His jaw-dropping arrogance is equaled only by the cowardice of the US Department of Justice, which hasn’t even indicted him for his crimes. Trump will continue to dominate the news, rejoin Twitter, and campaign for election-denying Republicans, rather than rot in prison where he belongs.
Make no mistake about it. The leaders of these fascist movements are the new Nazis.
They are racists dedicated to the triumph of their own race or religion: Chinese, Russian, Sunni, Shi’a, Hindu, or White.
They are nationalists who deny the human rights of anyone who doesn’t belong to their nation.
Nationalism is racism on steroids.
This combination of racism and nationalism is at the heart of Nazism.
It is the ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil that when ignited by hatred explodes into war and genocide.
Today we declare that we oppose all tyranny. We will fight the rise of the new Nazism, the new Fascism. And we will fight all war and genocide.
We will fight everywhere for freedom of religion, expression, and control over our bodies, ourselves, and our destinies. The freedom we fight for is freedom for every human soul.
We will fight with soul force, the sacred force that the Buddha, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, Mohammed, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us is the most powerful force on earth. That soul force is the Force of Love and Justice.
We are fighting the darkness in every human heart.
But we affirm the light in every human mind.
In each newborn baby’s brain, there are as many neural connections as all the stars in the Milky Way. In each of us is the stuff of the stars.
Each of us was created by the Force that created the Universe.
Love is God’s Force personally expressed.
Justice is God’s Force socially expressed.
As a five-foot-tall Babushka (grandmother) told me in 1991 as she pulled me down by the lapels to look me in the eye at an Orthodox church in Kyiv after I had spoken to 5000 people in the Maidan with Stepan Khmara and the leaders of Rukh, the Ukrainian independence movement: