[The Letter by Vijay Prashad is in response to the article by Ramachandra Guha:, ‘The Fear of Fascism – India’s Democratic Institutions Are Too Strong to Let Fascists Win’



Sir — Ramachandra Guha is an insightful commentator. But his recent piece, “The fear of fascism” (March 22), is riddled with errors in judgment. First, he makes a ludicrous comparison between Narendra Modi and Hugo Chavez, saying that both portray themselves as outsiders taking on the Establishment and that both demonize their opponents. Chavez, unlike Modi, always put himself as part of the Bolivarian movement, attacked the ‘Granite Block’ that dominated Venezuelan politics, but never insinuated divisive ethnic or cultural values into the political system. Perhaps Guha relied for his assessment of Chavez on the Mexican scholar, Enrique Krauze, who despises everything that Chavez stood for. While Chavez was in favour of using Venezuela’s oil for social development, Krauze lobbies for private sector control. If Guha had taken the full measure of Krauze’s politics, he would have seen that Krauze’s view of Chavez is entirely coloured by his political distaste for the Bolivarian movement. Modi has nothing of Chavez in him: neither the politics of social justice nor the generosity towards the people of his country.


Second, Guha asserts that Modi’s brand of intolerance should not scare the public because Indian democracy’s institutions are a resilient bulwark against fascism. Guha’s ‘India After Gandhi’ is a paean to the endurance of Indian democracy. So it is not surprising to read him singing praises of the institutions in this context. In that book, Guha wrote, “to call BJP ‘fascist’ is to diminish the severity and seriousness of the murderous crimes committed by the original fascists in Italy and Germany. To see the party [BJP] as fascist would be both to overestimate its powers and to underestimate the democratic traditions of the Indian people.” Fascism as a political ideology cannot be reduced to the exact experience of Germany. It is a category that is much debated in historical literature, as Guha knows. Roger D. Griffin, one of its most careful scholars, suggests that fascism is “populist ultra-nationalism”, with the fascist party using ideas of decline and the victimhood of the majority to create a political constituency to discipline minorities and workers’ movements. Modi’s Gujarat experiment suggests that the term is applicable to minorities (Christians in Dangs and Muslims across the state) and workers.


Guha conceded recently that Modi is an “authoritarian bully.” It might be well worth considering the impact that Modi already has had on the national temper — putting fear in the hearts of minorities and emboldening a toxic right wing to push its assertive and narrow agenda.


Yours faithfully,

Vijay Prashad from Lebanon

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