Lies, force and violence as statecraft: Why upper classes put up with fascists and their lies
Upper classes are comforted in the thought that being the holiest of holy, their own personal station in life is unlikely to be threatened even if the fascist phantasmagoria comes about
Do fascists believe in their own lies? This is a question that assumes importance because there are many commentators in India who believe that ‘lies by fascists’ are mere “Jumlas.”
Asked to explain the obvious disconnect between RSS’ propaganda on Muslims and the law of the land that guarantees them equality, Arun Jaitley, a leading intellectual light from the Sangh stable, dismissed the contradiction as “election gimmicks” or jumlas. But the fact is the disconnect wasn’t a jumla at all, as subsequent evolution of RSS dogmas in UP showed. They were in fact a serious declaration of intent.
Take the RSS/BJP propaganda on secularism as another example. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the party went on claiming that it wasn’t against “genuine secularism” but only against “pseudo-secularism” that facilitated “vote bank” politics. The implication, never seriously interrogated by our intelligentsia and the cognoscenti, was that having got rid of Congress’ version of alleged faux secularism, RSS/BJP would usher in “genuine secularism.”
To further disarm the skeptics among the liberals, it was held out that secularism was encoded in the Hindu DNA. Hinduism itself demanded equal respect for all religions and, therefore, there was no question of jettisoning secularism. Subsequent events show that this was another big lie, used to inveigle the gullible and cognoscenti alike. The ploy was just the thin edge of the wedge used to smuggle in a Trojan horse of Hindu Rashtra, that has no place for the minorities, except as second-class citizens, under an unabashed majoritarian rule.
Quite clearly, our recent history shows that fascists lie without compunction and strategically use the disbelief in them to create the very reality that the cognoscenti rule out as an unlikely outcome; a tail event so unlikely that it should be ruled out of the discourse. This accommodation of the lie merely facilitates the fascist agenda and makes it easier for them to disarm their critics. Or smuggle it past the conniving law of the land.
Fascists do not just lie. They create a reality in which the lie becomes a truth. Understanding how this transformation of the unreal into the real becomes manifest is very important to understanding fascist intentions.
As Hannah Arendt explains of Nazis: “Fascists are never content to merely lie; they must transform their lie into a new reality, and they must persuade people to believe in the unreality they’ve created. And if you get people to do that, you can convince them to do anything”
When a fascist lies, he is in fact not so much lying, as telling you the “truth” as he sees it. More than that, he declares his intention to “create” that truth for you to see as reality, by making it happen. When he tells you Muslims cannot be the equal of Hindus in a Hindu Rashtra, you think his assertion is a lie in the present context, which it is.
But you miss the most salient point of his assertion which is Hindu Rashtra. He is in fact telling you that he intends to create a “Hindu Rashtra” and in that fascist heaven, the question of a Muslim being equal to a Hindu, in any way, doesn’t arise. Of course, Muslims may have rights, but equality will not be one of them. He intends to create the reality, which appears unreal today, in which his lie in today’s context becomes the manifest truth. It is our intelligentsia, and the learned cognoscenti, who are at fault for not understanding the ‘truth value’ of a fascist proposition.
Consider the Jews. The Nazis actually declared them as unequal, then made laws that stripped the Jews of their homes and economic assets, turned them into paupers, forced them to live in ghettoes and then declared them ‘disease infested vermin’ that could only be dealt with by extermination. The Nazis didn’t lie. They told the truth as they saw it, and then created a reality in which it was true.
Who was to blame more - the Nazis for lying or the Cognoscenti for being dunces or willing accomplices? Why did the cognoscenti fail to take Nazi assertions of intent seriously, much like our oh-so-clever enablers of bigotry do today?
WHY DO UPPER CLASSES TOLERATE FASCIST LIES?
We have seen fascist lies are not so much the “untruth” in the present context, as a declaration of their intent into the future. Even so, as history shows, vast swathes of the population, for instance the German middle class, as indeed our middle & upper classes, were inclined to treat this declaration as “jumlas.” These avowals of intent were taken to be so phantasmagoric that they were treated as hallucinatory wet-dreams of fanatics, unlikely to ever become real.
At one level, the cognoscenti saw them as the “necessary” chimerical visions of fantasy, needed to keep the core supporters enthralled and engaged with party ideology; a sort of ritualistic incantations that priests throw at the gullible, to keep a religious ritual going. Therefore, these insubstantial phantoms had no real political or programmatic content, and acknowledging them was to give them substance they did not deserve. Anybody calling these out was a fool because this phantasmagoria just couldn’t be real. It was beneath their stature to even acknowledge its existence. You can clearly see this attitude in our thought leaders of the day.
At another level, a more subtle phenomenon is at play. To understand this phenomenon, we have to go beyond Hannah Arendt’s theories of fascism.
Theodor W. Adorno, in his paper, “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda” written in 1951, explains why the cognoscenti continue to disbelieve the “truth” of fascist lies because they are so implausible in the current context. He wrote:
“The implausibility of their actions made it easy to disbelieve what nobody, for the sake of precious peace, wanted to believe, while at the same time capitulating to it.”
This phenomenon in modern parlance is a manifestation of the “boiling frog” syndrome. Put simply, the cognoscenti didn’t believe the truth of fascist declarations of intent because they did not want to believe them. The assertions were so disruptive of the cognitive world of the cognoscenti, that they denied the truth of these fascist assertions to themselves! This cannot happen here. The exact attitude that some of our erudite commentators adopt. This won’t happen here because we are different, even as the evidence against their disbelief piles up by the day.
Like the boiling frog, they cling to their disbelief based on the sheer perceived implausibility of the outcome they dread. Even as they capitulate before it: by ignoring the lynchings, the invidious laws being enacted, the selective application of law to friends and foes, the protection afforded to party muscle, the burning of bodies at midnight, the incarceration of fellow journalists etc. There is a willing suspension of reason in dealing with the emerging reality.
The cognoscenti have a vested interest in the status quo. They have worked hard to get where they are. They find it hard to believe that all that they have earned and learned might be in jeopardy. They are comforted in the thought that being the holiest of holy, their own personal station in life is unlikely to be menaced even if the fascist phantasmagoria comes about.
With this distance, they are able to ignore what puts those at the margins in peril. It is easy to dismiss the plausible as implausible for others, as long as you are safe. And it is their silence, even when not acquiescing to the fascist doctrine, they let the fascist charade proceed. They are not enablers, - though some are; - they are more the invested disbelievers who hope against hope that the evil that threatens, will somehow not come to pass.
FASCISM AN IDEOLOGY LIKE COMMUNISM
Given fascism’s intricate link with politics, it may appear strange to try and make a distinction between the two. However, the need to do so is imperative. Fascism is a complete ideology, much like communism. In fact, fascism and communism are both totalitarian but to the right and the left extremes. The purpose of fascism is to sustain inequality of power, status, and economic resources, using force, while communism is all about bringing about equality in such distributions, through application of force. Both use the state to enforce their inequality or equality.
Be that as it may, the point here is that fascism is not merely politics of the day. It is a complete ideologically driven program, whose end aim is to sustain an unequally endowed hierarchical society, where the top end of the income/social/power pyramid own the commanding heights of the polity and the economy. In other words, fascism is not simply a device to capture power in politics. It has a well-defined end game, and the preferred outcome is a layered polity, with disproportionate share of all resources going to the top.
You cannot sustain such an unequal society without two things. Firstly, a belief system, or faith-based myth that can be used to justify the inequality to the laity. And secondly, a continuous application of force to keep the classes separate and to weed out malcontents.
For proof of these two facts, we have the highest authority among fascists; Adolf Hitler himself. The first proposition: "The application of force alone, without support based on a spiritual concept, can never bring about the destruction of an idea or arrest the propagation of it, unless one is ready and able to ruthlessly to exterminate the last upholders of that idea even to a man, and also wipe out any tradition which it may tend to leave behind." (Hitler, Adolf).
As Hitler himself notes, without a “spiritual concept,” application of force alone cannot sustain fascism even if you weed out the last malcontent. In Hitler’s National Socialism, the “spiritual concept” was provided by the proclaimed racial superiority of the Aryan Race, as the natural rulers of mankind. This ancient myth was suitably modernised and embellished to give it a semblance of reality, and its “truth” was demonstrated by creating the Jew as a diabolic satan, through whose elimination the Aryan race demonstrated its manifest superiority to all other races. That is the spiritual concept in Hitler’s conception.
Theodor Adorno has left us with much literature on how the fascists construct such “spiritual myths of dominance” in fascist polities of not only Germany but also Latin America. Nearer home, Brahmanism and its myths of dominance over other castes, is an excellent example. Suffice to say, fascism must have its myths of dominance that crown the fascist rulers and enable them to subordinate others. And these myths have a logic of their own in structuring a fascist polity.
For the second proposition, we have Adolf Hitler again: "The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence." Hitler makes no bones about the use of violence to sustain his polity.
For the cognoscenti who think they will be exempt from such violence here is Hitler again:"There will no longer exist any individual arbitrary will, nor realms in which the individual belongs to himself. The time of happiness as a private matter is over.”
In case Hitler appears too quaint an authority in the modern age, look no further than Xi’s treatment of the billionaire Jack Ma in China. Fascists put their myths and dogmas far above the point where you think they end.
The key point here is that fascism is not mere right-wing politics as usual. It is a complete ideology, that seeks to translate its myths into reality, howsoever impractical they may appear. It is like communism: a complete program with a defined end state.
In its search for an unequal society, fascism believes in continuous application of violence and in complete obliteration of the individual. As Hitler says, there is no place for “private happiness” in the fascist world.
So, our thought leaders, the cognoscenti need to be careful. No matter how implausible it may appear, the Hindu Rashtra is here, complete with its spiritual myths and capacity for private and state violence, and it has a well-defined end game.
You will be doing the polity a grievous disservice by refusing to engage with the new emerging reality.
Views expressed in the article are personal