United in unholy matrimony: Hindutva State and the Capital

The nexus between the Hindutva State and the Capital in India is following familiar historical parallels from Germany and Japan in the 1930s

Gautam Adani (left) has a warm handshake with PM Modi
Gautam Adani (left) has a warm handshake with PM Modi

Prabhat Patnaik

Fascist elements exist in every modern society, but usually as fringe and marginal elements. They move centrestage only when they get the support of monopoly capital, which provides them with ample money and media coverage; and this happens when there is a capitalist crisis that substantially increases unemployment and puts a question mark on the hegemony enjoyed by monopoly capital until then.

The role of the fascist elements in such a situation is to divert public attention and discourse away from the distress of living under a capitalism in crisis. A repressive State unleashes thugs as vigilante groups, who go after the minority, thinkers, intellectuals, political opponents and independent academics. India conforms entirely to this pattern.

There is an additional element associated with the rise of fascist groups to political power. Within monopoly capital, it is the new monopoly bourgeoisie that acquires a particularly close relationship with the fascist groups.

French anarcho-Marxist Daniel Guerin in his book Fascism and Big Business had argued that in Germany, the newly emerging monopoly capitalists in sectors like steel, producer goods, and armaments had firmly backed the Nazis in the 1930s, compared to the older monopoly capitalists engaged in sectors like textiles and consumer goods.

That is not to suggest that the latter group did not support the Nazis; in fact, economist Michael Kalecki talks of the Nazi regime as a partnership between fascist upstarts and big business in general. However, the new monopoly groups are more pro-active and extend far more aggressive support to the fascists.

Similarly, in Japan, it was the emerging new group of monopoly capitalists, the Shinko Zaibatsu firms such as Nissan and Mori, which were more aggressive in supporting the Japanese military-fascist regime in the 1930s than the old Zaibatsu consisting of houses like Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Sumitomo that had earlier been at the forefront of Japanese industrialisation.

It is not a question of old monopoly houses not supporting the fascist regime; they obviously did. And this was the reason why the post-War American occupation regime in Japan under Gen. Douglas MacArthur disbanded the old Zaibatsu houses. But it was the new monopoly houses whose support for the military-fascistic regime was total, absolute and far more aggressive. Here again, India conforms entirely to this pattern.

The new monopoly houses like the Adanis and the Ambanis have been far more pro-active in their support for the Modi regime, and have in turn benefitted immensely from such support, compared to the old and established monopoly houses, though the latter have not been in anyway reluctant to extend their support, with the head of the Tatas visiting the RSS headquarters in Nagpur to underscore their proximity to the Hindutva regime.

Modi government’s close nexus with the new monopoly elements in particular and with monopoly capital in general has often been described as ‘crony capitalism’. This description, however, understates the closeness of the the fascist elements in power and monopoly capital. It misses the specific, sui generis nature of this relationship, which is better described as the corporate–Hindutva alliance.

All capitalism is crony capitalism in a certain sense: there are certain rules of the game that have to be followed, but within those rules, discretion is exercised in favour of the cronies. For instance, for getting a contract, an applicant must fulfil certain minimum criteria.

But even among all who fulfil these criteria, those who have the right connections and/or the right background, get the contract. The award of contracts under capitalism, in other words, is never entirely blind; but this lack of blindness, this systematic practice of favouritism, occurs within certain rules of the game.

Rudolf Hilferding in Das Finanzkapital had talked of a ‘personal union’ between banks and industrial capital and the formation on this basis of a ‘financial oligarchy’, and had suggested a similar personal union between the financial oligarchy and the State.

Executives of multinational corporations are appointed to senior State positions; and likewise senior State personnel shift smoothly to multinational corporations in senior executive positions. The State policy thereby gets tailored to take care of the interests of monopoly capitalists.

When the CIA staged a coup in Guatemala to topple Jacobo Arbenz (whose land reforms had hurt the United Fruit Company of the US) or when the CIA and MI-6 staged a coup against Premier Mossadegh of Iran (because he nationalised the oil industry, thereby displacing the British oil company Anglo-Iranian), the aggressive States were acting in defence of the interests of monopoly capitalists; but there was no disowning of the rules of the game and no owning that a coup had been staged to defend particular monopoly interests.

In fact, to this day the British government formally denies having anything to do with the coup that toppled Mossadegh and brought the Shah of Iran to power.

The emergence of fascist elements to power, however, changes all this. It entails a fundamental shift, namely a jettisoning of the rules of the game.

This is clearly evident in the Indian case. When the prime minister asked the French government to accept a newly created firm by Anil Ambani as the local manufacturer of equipment for the Rafale aircraft, there was no question of any global tender and no question of satisfying any minimum criteria. In fact, even the public sector manufacturer (HAL) was bypassed, for which no explanation was ever offered.

Similarly, when, despite the Hindenburg revelations, no inquiry is ordered into the affairs of the Adani group, what we have is an abrogation of the rules of the game. It is reported that the BJP government is planning to select some firms and build them up to be the winners in competition with other countries’ firms, which if true, confirms the close nexus between new monopoly capital and the State.

There will be no rules of the game that will be followed in picking these potential winners; it will simply entail State help for building up the empires of monopoly capitalists with whom the Hindutva elements have entered into an alliance.

On the other side, the new monopoly elements reciprocate by ensuring that the government gets full media support. It is hardly surprising that the stray TV channel that had been somewhat independent in its news coverage was bought up by the Adani group. It would be a patent understatement to call this entire process, what Mussolini had called “a fusion of State and corporate power”, merely a case of crony capitalism.

Any talk of crony capitalism itself presupposes that there is a non-crony capitalism that normally prevails. There is, in fact, no such animal. All capitalism is crony capitalism, but the relationship between the State and capital changes over time and becomes much closer under monopoly capitalism.

Capitalism in the period of fascists’ rule represents a further qualitative transformation of this relationship, where the rule itself is exercised by a corporate–Hindutva alliance.

(IPA Service. Courtesy: People’s Democracy)

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