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November 6, 2018

Facing fascism


November 6, 2018

A group of fascists gathered in Liverpool last week to poison people’s minds with their retrogressive slogans and ideology of hate. But saner elements sprang into action in no time, forcing the xenophobic brigade to flee.

This is not the first time that a pro-people group dared to challenge the fascist elements of the far-right world by risking their lives. A myriad of anti-fascist parties have taken to the street to counter the marches, protests and demonstrations of anti-immigrant, anti-worker, anti-Muslim and anti-women groups in recent years.

Such parties suffered a great deal at the hands of fascist forces in the past. Fascist bands had eliminated workers organisations in Italy, and brutally crushed trade unions and targeted other marginalised groups in Nazi Germany. They also unleashed a reign of terror in Spain, prompting revolutionaries from various parts of Europe to fight this menace.

So, these parties know how important it is to challenge fascist forces that have always pushed Western society towards repeated conflagrations. In recent years, whenever far-right groups or ultranationalist outfits hold any march or protest, they always find pro-workers organisations challenging their ideology of hate and racism. Despite the silent support of the capitalist media and state, they haven’t been able to make inroads into large swathes of European land. Though their anti-immigrant slogans gained traction among some sections of society during the chronic economic recession, a majority of people are still reluctant to throw their weight behind these ultra-nationalists.

Some leaders, including US President Donald Trump, are trying to popularise the anti-immigrant narrative, lambasting non-Americans and questioning the methods of granting citizenship. Such leaders want to establish a majoritarian junta instead of promoting democratic ideals that keeps the rights of all citizens in view without accounting for their caste, colour and religion.

Despite their influence, these leaders are being challenged everywhere. For instance, when Donald Trump separated immigrant children from their parents, it triggered countrywide outrage, forcing the American president to realise his limits. The English Defense League in the UK and the National Rally (formerly known as the National Front) in France, two far-right Islamophobic outfits, are also being countered by saner elements in both countries. Angela Merkel didn’t surrender to the brigades of ultra-nationalists and, defying all challenges, allowed around a million Syrians to stay in Germany. People also extended blanket support for Muslims and other immigrants in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is not the case in developing countries where a number of outfits and political parties are trying to establish majoritarian regimes. Instead of countering such hate-mongers, political parties tend to patronise them, encouraging them to lambast religious minorities and other marginalised groups.

In fact, it has become easy to turn weaker elements into scapegoats for the ills that were primarily caused by the ruthless forces of the market and the unplanned methods of the capitalist economy. For instance, India’s capitalist economy and its narrative of development have uprooted millions of citizens, depriving them of their land and livelihood. Instead of challenging this narrative, right-wing forces have turned Muslims and other minorities into bogeymen, blaming them for society’s ills. But such forces managed to carve a space for themselves in parliament after stirring hatred against minorities.

It appears that the same method is being employed by the TLP, which made it to the Sindh Assembly after spewing venom against minorities and other weaker groups. Emboldened by this victory, the outfit is trying to claim more political space by fuelling hatred and targeting non-Muslims. Its activities have sent a shiver down the spine of non-Muslim Pakistanis who have viewed the rise of such groups with trepidation.

Even those who got euphoric over the rise of this venom-spitting group a year ago were appalled when the brigade of hate-mongers started targeting marginalised communities and state institutions. The group’s audacious verbal attack on state institutions has also prompted many to ask why the apex court, which has issued several contempt notices to politicians, hasn’t summoned the abuse-hurling cleric who leads the group. He has on several occasions spewed venom against the honourable judges of the Supreme Court.

Interestingly, this outfit that has spread hate against non-Muslims bears a striking similarity to non-Muslim fascist groups in other parts of the world. If you look at fascist elements in any part of the world, they tend to target weaker segments of society. For instance, Hitler targeted Jews, eunuchs and poor workers. Mussolini did something similar. Currently, neo-fascists are also directing all their energies against marginalised groups in Hungary, Germany, America and other parts of the Western world.

In India, religious bigots are tearing the social fabric with their divisive ideology. Their fascist tactics, from Ayodhya to Gujarat, helped them earn political support and the BJP, which was on the periphery of Indian politics in the 1970s, emerged as the country’s largest party. It seems that the TLP also believes in gaining popularity and political power through the same fascist tactics.

But can the hydra of fascism be countered? Can the serpent of obscurantism be crushed? Can the soldiers of the hate brigade be cut down to size? The answer is yes. If the state can crush global terror outfits like Al-Qaeda and the TTP, there is no reason to believe that it cannot eliminate this group that is openly challenging state authorities and calling for a revolt in the country’s most disciplined institution. In recent years, no outfit has challenged state authority in the same way that this group has. Therefore, it is the state’s responsibility to deal with this menace in the same way that other modern nation-states would.

Political parties and the civil society also have many ways to counter this divisive ideology. There is no denying the fact that this group is making inroads on society. But their electoral strength is still insignificant. Even their street power is not greater than that of other political parties. During the recent protest, the group hardly managed to gather a few thousand people. Only around 800 people blocked Islamabad Expressway. A few thousand people gathered in Lahore and other parts of the country. Had the state carried out a meticulous planning, it could have prevented these elements even before they had assembled at different points.

Political parties can thwart these fascists by learning from other countries that have dealt with similar situations. For instance, in October 1936, thousands of black-shirted followers of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF) decided to march through the predominantly Jewish and Irish area. Rather than preventing the march, the state deployed 10,000 cops to provide security to the marchers.

Society didn’t sit idly by. Around 300,000 anti-fascists surrounded the marchers, forcing them to flee. If a few thousand religious fascists gather to intimidate the state, threaten minorities, and frighten marginalised groups, the PPP, the PTI, the PML-N, the National Party, the AWP, the PkMAP and the civil society should offer a joint forum of resistance by gathering millions of people.

History suggests that the more space you concede to fascist forces, the more they demand. The next time a fascist band tries to challenge state authority or damage the country’s reputation by attacking minorities, we should be on the ground with a flood of people and force them to give up their ideology of hate against fellow Pakistanis. Turning a blind eye to their rising power will only spell disaster, not only for this generation but also for future generations.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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