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  Opinion   Oped  07 Apr 2018  Fascism lies in the eyes of the beholder

Fascism lies in the eyes of the beholder

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Apr 7, 2018, 5:17 am IST
Updated : Apr 7, 2018, 5:17 am IST

In Britain this week Corbyn is being challenged to expel from the Labour Party its members who have blatantly denied that the holocaust took place.

Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: AP)
 Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: AP)

“Whoever said ‘let there be light!’
Was not paying the electricity bill”
  — From Dildo Deykey Dekho by Bachchoo

In democratic politics perception is everything. You can fool some of the people all the time and a majority of voters most of the time.

The leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the anti-Semitism, which Jewish organisations claim is rife in his party.

In order to counter, or perhaps to aggravate their claims, he attended a Passover ceremony held by a Jewish fundamentalist organisation called Jewdass. This anarchist group of a few hundred in the UK is not looked upon favourably by any other Jewish formation as they deny the right of Israel to exist. They claim they have God’s word, the Torah on their side.

Mr Corbyn hasn’t explained why he went. It has caused as much puzzlement as, say, Rahul Gandhi attending an ISIS celebration of Eid to show he was not against minorities. Maybe not!

My failed attempt to find a parallel to what is a crisis for the UK Labour Party was prompted by a philosophical or semantic quest. Mr Corbyn has of course assured the press that the party will root out anti-Semitism from its ranks but the national mood is sceptical. He is avowedly anti-Zionist and anti-Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. Where is the dividing line which separates these perfectly legitimate political stances from being anti-Jews and taking a Mein Kampf line?

Just a question, and here’s another.

In the last few months, I have received several mails and texts which ask me to consider whether the Narendra Modi-led BJP government can be defined as “fascist”. I must admit that in my student days, and later, I have thrown the word about without a considered evaluation of its precise connotations. Like calling someone a bastard without meaning that they were born out of wedlock.

But provoked to consider the democratically elected and largely popular government of Mr Modi in that light, I looked for some precise definition of the word.

I assure you, gentle reader, that the Internet is rife with descriptions, some favourable, of Hitler, Mussolini, Nazism and that breed. The controversial definition, adopted by self-confessed Right-wing groups themselves, is a table of 14 criteria which seem to be hitting the target.

It was drawn up in 2003 by a Xerox-and-Mobil-Oil executive called Laurence W. Britt. This table of criteria for fascism has had a chequered history. Mr Britt compiled it as an antidote to fascist ideology, but when it appeared on social media the far right and openly fascist groups adopted it to stick the label, however thin the glue, on to people they disapproved of, such as President Barack Obama.

The adoption of Mr Britt’s table by undesirables doesn’t negate or disqualify it. Here it is:
Fascism embraces powerful nationalism
It has a disdain for human rights
It identifies enemies and scapegoats to make a unifying cause.
It supports the supremacy of the military.
It is rampantly sexist.
It seeks to control the mass media
It is obsessed with national security
Religion and government are intertwined in its ideology
Corporate power is protected
Labour power is suppressed
Intellectuals and the arts are disdained or victimised
There is an obsession with crime and punishment
There is rampant cronyism and corruption in the regime’s ranks
There is widespread election fraud.

The list, or many of its clauses, fits several contemporary regimes. How would, for instance, the Saudi regime, having recently lifted the ban on women driving cars, fare?

I suppose a score of 10/14 would characterise any regime as fascist. A lower score could brand it proto-fascist.That being said, all 14 criteria involve an assessment. “Fascism” is in the eye of the assessor.

Nevertheless, like one of those health, IQ, personality or other pointless tests offered to the public on various websites today, it’s a good test or pastime for all BJP politicians and even ordinary members of the party to undertake and make undisclosed assessments in the privacy of their prayer or yoga rooms.

And turning to the UK, is it true, for instance, that the Brexitwallas have rallied their supporters around a strong if unspoken sense of nationalism? Or take clause six: American Presidents can’t go around blatantly censoring the press, but isn’t Trump’s “fake-news” canard, hostility to CNN and the newspapers who oppose him and his legal attempts to gag the likes of Stormy Daniels some way towards fitting in with the spirit of clause 6?

In Britain this week Mr Corbyn is being challenged to expel from the Labour Party its members who have blatantly denied that the holocaust took place. These lunatics aside, the world knows that the Third Reich was the classic and instigating example of Britt’s clause 3 which points to the regime making scapegoats of a class or group in order to rally support. No one, not even the most ardent opponent of anti-Semitism has this week claimed that the presence in the Labour Party of these holocaust-deniers and Jew-haters is a deliberate strategy to rally supporters.

Nevertheless, the party is tainted by their presence and Mr Corbyn’s refusal so far to expel them. That has resulted in 17,000 members leaving the Labour Party. If I was a conspiracy theorist I might argue that the high command of Labour may have calculated that the loss of Jewish and liberal voters would be amply compensated for by stronger support from some in the immigrant Muslim communities and by recruits from far-left anti-Israelis. I am not for a moment saying I have the slightest indication that this is true. But let me suggest one of the idle pastimes beloved of Social Media followers: A scribe points from one to ten by testing the Indian government’s closeness or conformity to each of Britt’s clauses. It passes the time more engagingly than shelling peanuts on the local train.  

Tags: jeremy corbyn, rahul gandhi, fascism