I happened to be in Calcutta for several days. One evening, at the Calcutta Club, I bumped
into an old acquaintance. Omeo Sen and I were in the first year at the University Law
College in 1956. I gave up studies after attending classes for some nine weeks while he
carried on earnestly. He was a lively youth but so deeply committed to Marxism that he
could not easily see another point of view. He was already a member of the communist
Students Federation. Later, he became an advocate but evidently remained loyal to the
philosophy of Karl Marx.
At the club, our conversation developed into an argument over why
communism failed in Europe. I also said something in defence of Hindutva whereupon he got
so excited that he called me a fascist. I have found this happening time and again when a
leftist runs out of argument. It is amazing how very few people today know what fascism
really means. The Italian word 'fascia' means a bundle or a bunch implying unity.
As you well know, capitalism is often associated with class
exploitation. The rich bourgeoisie or entrepreneurs, as it were, exploit their workers.
Communism is quite a bit about class conflict. In Europe after World War I, there was a
recession and a great deal of unemployment not only as a result of it but also because of
demobilised soldiers. Communism looked like threatening to overrun the European system.
In 1917, Marxism had won a sterling victory in Russia. Led by Lenin, a working class
revolution had overthrown the Czarist monarchy. It was not inconceivable that a red shadow
would soon sweep across not only the Continent but also the European civilization. Not
only the capitalists but all those committed to the European ethos hated such a prospect.
Yet, they could not place their faith on the ability of the capitalist system to defend
their ethos. Out of this hopelessness was born the fascist movement. Class collaboration
was discovered by Benito Mussolini to be the answer to keep the red shadow at bay. In
November 1921, he founded the Partito (party) Nazional Fascista.
Prof. Alfredo Rocco, the Minister of Justice in the Mussolini cabinet, set forth the gist
of this new ideology in the course of a speech at Perugia in 1925. According to him, the
society does not exist for the individual, but the individual for the society; economic
progress is a social interest and all classes of people should combine or collaborate to
maximise production. He stated that the interests of the employers and the employees are
identical. To ensure that this is practiced, there was a system of state discipline over
class conflicts. Strikes and lockouts were alike illegal and punishable by heavy fines
and, in certain cases, by imprisonment.
Wherever possible, the employers and workers in each industry, trade or
profession were organised together in syndical associations.Where it was not possible to
form such syndicates, the unions and the employers' associations remained but combined to
form guilds to coordinate and ensure cordiality. If collective bargaining could not end
satisfactorily, the disputes were referred to law courts assisted by experts. This is how
class collaboration was conceptualized by the Fascist Party.
In practice, the economy was toned up by rearmament and public works.
Soldiers were recruited in large numbers and so were workers in factories to produce arms.
This would bring profits to the bourgeoisie who could then pay the proletariat well. Urban
prosperity would increase demand for agricultural produce. What was left of the
under-employed youth was absorbed by the armed forces. The promise to the whole nation was
foreign conquests which would bring booty. The Albanian adventure and the invasion of
Abyssinia were two efforts to fulfil this promise until of course World War II broke out.
Another example of the practice of fascism or class collaboration,
albeit on a much more limited scale, was in Spain under General Franco. Neither the
Italian nor the Spanish experience is widely known in any great detail in India. What
however the members of the intelligentsia are familiar with are the exploits of Adolf
Hitler and his Nazi Party, whose full name was National Socialist German
Workingmen's Party. It was founded by Hitler and his six comrades in Munich in 1920. The
economic deprivation in Germany was much greater than witnessed in Italy. The country paid
an exorbitant price for its defeat in World War I. The runaway inflation as well as the
world depression ignited by the crash in share prices on the Wall Street in New York in
1929 made matters worse for Germany. It was widely believed that the charisma of Hitler
and his programme of class collaboration (more or less on the lines of Mussolini's
Italy, although on a far grander scale) saved the country from utter collapse and a
communist take over.
Unlike the Italian and Spanish examples, the Nazi Party proposed to exclude Jews from
German life. The party alleged that the Jewish leadership had betrayed the state during
World War I and was to a large extent responsible for the German defeat. In their bid to
exterminate the Jews, not only from Germany but also from the rest of Europe, the Nazis
were estimated to have killed six million Jews by 1945.
In sharp contrast, the decade under General Charles de Gaulle in France
(1958-68) was a worthy face of class collaboration.
The French army, led by General Raoul Salan, in the colony of Algeria,
threatened to invade France. They wanted to defeat the leftist and communist politicians
who preferred to free Algeria than continue to fight to retain the colony. President Rene
Coty saw no way of averting acivil war except to achieve national cooperation by inviting
General de Gaulle to become prime minister.
During the illustrious rule of de Gaulle, France was more united than
she had been for a long time. He achieved domestic peace and national unity by reminding
Frenchmen of their exalted and exceptional destiny, that France must be the centre and
keystone of Europe and so on. In order to reject its subordination to the USA, Paris left
the American alliance formalised under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It set up
its independent nuclear power called force de frappe also comprising bombs as well
as six army divisions Over the ten years, France progressed from the position of a
struggling, conflict ridden country to be among one of the most modern economies in
In the USA, the New Deal of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
(1933-45), the New Frontier of John F. Kennedy or the New Society of Lyndon Johnson also
had the flavour of forays into class collaboration.
The word Fascist provokes revulsion although the ideology is neutral to violence like any
other social philosophy. After all, Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union was no less violent or
terroristic than Adolf Hitler's Germany. Nor was democratic America's extermination
of the Red Indians or the brutalization of the black slaves any more laudable. The
Emergency imposed in India during 1975 was also not free from terror and violence.