Hindutva: The Ideology for Counterrevolution in the Global South

Rainer Shea 
What are India’s prospects for revolution? To find out, we must first understand the current strength of Indian capital, and of its fighting wing: Hindutva fascism.

Hindutva’s dishonest narratives

In his article from last year Hindutva: Myths & Reality, Professor Shamsul Islam debunks the multiple Big Lies which India’s ruling fascists employ. These lies are:

-That Hindutva is the same as Hinduism. In reality, Hinduism has historically not shared Hindutva’s belief that those outside the religion must be excluded from society.

-That the construct of the Hindu nation has been present throughout the entire Indian subcontinent since antiquity. In reality, Indian independence leader Dr. BR Ambedkar has concluded that “The Hindu provinces have no common traditions and no interests to bind them.” The only dispute I would take with this statement is that the provinces do have one common interest: overthrowing the fascist state which subjugates them, and building a socialist workers state.

-That Hindutva unites Hindus. In reality, Hindutva calls for the continuation of the caste system, which innately pits some Hindus against others. As Islam assesses, Hindutva is “nothing but justification of Untouchability” for those favored by the hierarchy, with women being subjected to a system of violent misogyny and South Indian Hindus being classified as an inferior race.

-That the Hindutva ideology keeps India united. What Hindutva truly does is undermine democracy and secularism while pushing for the Hitlerian cleansing of undesirables. As Islam observes about what the ideology’s literature says: “The holy book for the RSS cadres, Bunch of Thoughts, the compilation of the writings of MS Golwalkar, the ideologue of the RSS, has a long chapter titled, ‘Internal Threats’, in which the Muslims and Christians are described as threats number one and two respectively. The Communists get the honour of being ‘Internal Threat’ number three.”

The RSS is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an armed and uniformed paramilitary organization that claims to seek to “strengthen” the Hindu community by purging these elements.

That Hindutva views the world as one big family. In fact, it’s a modern heir to the racial ideology of the Nazis. As Islam assesses:

Hindutva believes in the cleansing of non-Aryans as done by Hitler and Mussolini. The RSS as flag-bearer of Hindu nationalism always believed in the superiority of the Aryan race like Hitler and the Nazis. Racism is a common tie, which binds them. Hindus happened to be Aryans belonging to the National race whereas Muslims and Christians were foreigners because they followed religions, which took birth in non-Aryan foreign lands. The RSS divided religions professed in India into two categories, Indian and foreign. Interestingly, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism were declared to be of the Indian variety but were not accorded the status of independent religions. These were simply treated as part of Hinduism.

It’s for these reasons that Hindutva is the ideal ideological model for carrying out counterrevolution within the exploited world as global class conflict intensifies. Its goal is to divide and rule by indoctrinating the masses with a hierarchical worldview which goes far beyond casteism, extending to a desire to wage war against all religious and ethnic groups deemed to be inferior—and to exterminate all who dare defy capital.

Zionism applied to the exploited world

You may notice the similarities that Hindutva has with Zionism. They both portray themselves as the sole representatives of the identities they appropriate, with the Zionists asserting that anti-Zionism is the same as antisemitism. And they both claim to be carrying forth an ancient mandate for their respective regions to be conquered, with the Zionists saying that Palestine’s colonization is justified by the land being the ancestral homeland of the Jews. (Even though dark-skinned Jews in Israel are frequently deported, and European Ashkenazi Jews are carrying out the settling). Their shared hypocrisy is reinforced by how enthusiastically the Hindutva fascists from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party glorify Israel.

The BJP has come to love Israel in spite of the party’s history of Nazi ties (and therefore antisemitism) because for the Hindutva fascists, Israel’s subjugation of Palestine (and of certain Jews) is worth respecting. The BJP and its propagandists support Israel’s efforts to annex more Arab territories, and Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies in the name of “fighting terrorism,” because Hindutva’s goal is to successfully subjugate Muslims so that Kashmir can be fully colonized. Naturally, parallels have arisen between the BJP’s “counterterrorist” terrorization of Kashmiris, and Israel’s genocidal war against Gazans. And Israel has rewarded the BJP’s praise by selling India a growing amount of weapons. Israel is also developing a fencing system for India’s border with Pakistan and training Indian forces—including the ones who’ve committed abuses against Kashmiris.

Israel’s role is so notable, not just in terms of India but on a global scale, because modern Hindutva is the most advanced example of how Zionism has been replicated for counterrevolutionary purposes. Israel has been providing military technologies and repressive training to numerous other repressive regimes, from Brazil to Colombia to the “free” United States. Throughout these countries, ultra-nationalists mirror Israel’s brand of ethno-centrism, as well as the Zionist addiction to censorship. The Zionist settler-colonial state has become the testing ground for imperialism’s global innovations in necro-politics.

Since both Zionism and Nazism are modeled after U.S. settler-colonialism, the nature of this rising fascism is one where the racism of the American empire gets replicated. And India’s fascist movement has shown how this exported Manifest Destiny can be effective at staving off revolution, even during today’s dire stage of capitalist collapse.

When I’ve brought up the prospect of India going Red, the statements of discouragement I’ve heard from Indians have revolved around this reality about how tight of a grip Hindutva and its reactionary poisons hold. And their concerns shouldn’t be dismissed; the power of the divisions Hindutva has fostered is something for communists to reckon with. Because the fascists have successfully established their myth about Hindutva and its casteist views being integral to Hinduism, this Big Lie has culturally entrenched casteism—making for a deep obstacle towards proletarian democratic equality.

That’s how effective Hindutva’s lies are: they’ve turned reality on its head by inverting the way Hinduism has historically viewed the caste system, which is assessed by the academic journal article of M. V. Nadkarni to be as follows: “Hinduism—its vedic and classical variants—did not support the caste system; it rigorously opposed it in practice and principle.” Yet the fascists continue to assert the opposite. This parallels how the Zionists have attempted to portray their racist ideology as intrinsic to Judaism, when in fact many Jews see Zionism and its brutality as fundamentally opposed to Judaism.

In both of these narratives, and in the reactionary propaganda throughout the other countries which are getting “Israelified,” the analogy can be drawn with the concept of doublethink—where people are primed to accept two contradictory thoughts for the sake of advancing a larger agenda. It’s reflected in the lies that Modi frequently tells about the economy, his handling of the pandemic, and other matters. As columnist Shivam Vij assesses about how doublethink is utilized by the BJP:

People are thus expected to believe as true what is clearly false, and also take at face value mutually contradictory statements. The Modi government talked about NRC [National Register of Citizens], but it also did not talk about it. The Modi government is making migrants pay for train fares, but at the same time, it is not charging them. Doublethink also applies other Orwellian principles — Newspeak, Doublespeak, Thoughtcrime, etc. But why do people accept it all so willingly? Why do the people who are lied to every day go and vote for the same BJP? There are many obvious answers to this question: weak opposition, mouthpiece media, social media manipulation, and Modi’s personality cult that makes his voters repose great faith in him.

However, the cult has to run up against reality at some point. And when it does, it can only react with violence.

Blunting the forces of class struggle by any means necessary 

No amount of lies can change how dysfunctional Indian capitalism is becoming. Columnist Sonali Ranade observes about the contradictions in Modi’s economic narratives:

Modi’s understanding of how a modern economy competes in the global marketplace is deeply flawed. None of his policy measures betray the vision that powered the 90/91 reforms. None of his programmes have the capacity to lift 40 million of India’s poor above the poverty line as the reforms did. Instead, Modi’s policies have implicitly created 75 million more poor. Modi has compressed real wage growth to near zero since 2014. We can brush away the economic failures as minor irritants in a grand project, but hunger, poverty, and destitution, have undermined civilisations before. Modi’s project is not immune to this malady. Before long, the economy will have to perform at levels significantly above current capacities. It is not clear how Modi plans to achieve that.

Such is the dilemma of a fascist state in an exploited country, especially during the current era where neoliberalism has combined with the pandemic to skyrocket global inequality. Ultra-nationalist bluster can’t erase the deterioration of the people’s conditions, which in the exploited world is even worse than in the imperialist countries. This is why class conflict has been intensifying in India throughout recent years, with the farmers’ struggles producing the largest protests in world history.

The strikes and demonstrations have been in retaliation against the BJP’s committing one of the most brazen provocations the bourgeoisie has ever carried out: responding to the last half-century’s shrinking of the economic role of Indian agriculture not by assisting the increasingly struggling farmers, but by enacting laws which have deregulated the market and thus left small farmers vulnerable to big business. This has driven up suicides among these farmers, increased inequality, and exacerbated food and water scarcity.

Last fall, Modi caved in and repealed the laws. But we shouldn’t put it past the BJP to reintroduce these policies in some other form, and the regime’s actions during the protests have created lasting distrust and outrage. When the son of a BJP politician ran over protesting farmers last October, it provoked outcry from the labor movement and opposition leaders. This has come after the crackdowns against the protests have exposed the nature of the Indian police as human rights threats. And after the pandemic lockdowns have given Indian law enforcement opportunities to exercise arbitrary and brutal punishments, which have provoked worldwide condemnation.

In an environment like this, Hindutva can only stay in power by recreating the fascist takeovers of its ideological predecessors Hitler and Mussolini. This takeover has been underway for many years, and has so far primarily taken the form of destroying press freedom—fitting for an ideology that depends on deception and historical revision to stay in power. Since the BJP became dominant in 2014, India has undergone media repression, suppression of civil society, sabotage of academic expression, and an increase in media bias towards the far-right orthodoxy. India’s electoral integrity has also been blunted in insidious ways; mass surveillance and online micro-targeting have been weaponized to wage war against dissent, in parallel to Zionism’s digital tactics for policing Palestinians. Observes columnist Sumanti Sen about the ways this is being used to impact national events, including elections:

In its 2017 response to a Right to Information (RTI) request, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology confirmed that as many as 23,030 websites or URLs had been blocked. In another acknowledgement reflecting the scale of government blocking, the DoT confirmed in August 2018 that it had requested the blocking of 11,045 websites, webpages, and URLs since 2016. Some of the content that has been blocked includes social media networking groups and websites engaged in flaring up “anti-India” sentiments. Controversies also continued around Aadhaar, the world’s largest biometric identification system…Meanwhile, ahead of the 2019 elections, incumbents and candidates manipulated content, used bots and employed volunteers to push inorganic content and exacerbate existing social tensions for political gain. Within this environment, marginalized groups, in particular, experienced online harassment and trolling.

Where is this leading? Towards a 21st century manifestation of the Jakarta Method, the anti-communist repression approach that Indonesia’s CIA-installed dictatorship used for murdering around a million political dissidents and members of disfavored groups. The Jakarta Method was then exported to Latin America’s Cold War dictatorships, bringing about the atrocities of Operation Condor. Now that India’s capitalist crises have reached a more dire point than ever, the Method could soon be brought there, with Hindutva serving as its ideological rationale.

So will be the case in Colombia, Brazil, and all the other exploited countries which have been getting similarly Israelified. Mass extermination is the logical conclusion of a worldview which seeks to keep capital in place no matter what, even in conditions where much of the population in the exploited world is being driven to revolution out of practical necessity. This is the threat that communists must prepare for not just in the Global South, but in the core imperialist countries.

Rainer Shea: Exposing the lies of capitalism and imperialism. Subscribe to his newsletter on Substack.