On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Deshabrati, a symposium on the subject “Fascist Aggression And Resistance To It” was organized by “Ajker Deshabrati”, the organ of the West Bengal State Committee of CPI(ML). It was held on 25th July, 2017 at Bharat Sabha Hall, Calcutta. Incidentally, Deshabrati was first published on 6th July, 1967 at the height of Naxalbari movement as mouthpiece of the revolutionary sections within CPI(M) and it later came to be the organ of West Bengal unit of CPI(ML). The four speakers at the symposium were columnist Ranabir Samaddar, Dipankar Bhattacharya, general secretary of CPI(ML), journalist Subhojit Bagchi associated with The Hindu and litterateur Abul Bashar.

Apart from the speakers, on the dais was also present special guest Nemai Ghosh who was associated with the organ since its first publication and was jailed for the same by the notorious Siddhartha Roy regime. Also present were CPI(ML) Politburo members Kartick Pal, Dhurjyoti Baxi, Partha Ghosh, Arindam Sen and other CPI(ML) leaders. The proceedings were conducted by Animesh Chakrabarty, editor of Ajker Deshabrati.

Ranabir Samaddar observed that with the acceleration of the process of globalization, there is a marked deterioration in the economic conditions of the vast majority of the people, and quite a significant section of the people belonging to the lower rung of the society is being used as foot soldiers of fascism. He stressed that while on the one hand right wing politics is making headway in rapid strides, on the other what is gaining significant ground is populism and not Marxist politics. He suggested that populism was not necessarily right-wing, and that populist parties in different states might oppose some basic demands of the people, and on the other might stand up to the centralizing trends of the totalitarian government in Delhi. Federalism, he emphasized, must have to be strengthened, and the right to autonomy – whether in respect of provincial politics or dalit activism – must be upheld.

Dipankar Bhattacharya began his address by referring to the name of the organ ‘Deshabrati’ which denotes dedication to the motherland. And the word ‘motherland’ represents not merely its geography but its people also. The Sangh calls itself patriotic and brands us anti-national. In place of chauvinism – which they try to pass off as their patriotism – genuine people-first patriotism, sincere love for the people has assumed great relevance in combating fascism. He further said that we need not understand fascism with reference to Europe, and reading Ambedker will help us realizing fascism in the Indian context. The day the Indian constitution was adopted, Ambedker – in his last address to the Constituent Assembly – did not get swayed like Nehru by euphoria. On the contrary, he was full of apprehension whether we would be able to save our democracy or not. According to him, a democratic constitution was planted on an undemocratic soil ridden with castes. Further, the cult of hero worship predominates our society, and this poses a great threat to democracy. For, this idolization of the heroes brings on centralization of power in one’s hands leading to eventual advent of authoritarianism and termination of democracy. After the Bangladesh war, the glorification of Indira Gandhi took on an immense proportion, she appropriated enormous power culminating in the declaration of Emergency. The situation today, Dipankar Bhattacharya asserted, is even worse. Idolisation of Modi has attained such supreme dimension that it is he, and no one else, grabs all the focus and power. We are witnessing on the one hand an alarming concentration of power; the prime minister is putting his hand-picked men in one institution after another, from the army to the universities. On the other a process of decentralization is also marked where the lynch mob are being empowered to kill people at will, on the streets and in the train.

As to the way of resisting fascism, Dipankar said that there is no fixed formula to it. Fascism assumes power through elections and then expands itself to different corners, but electoral arithmetic does not have the potential to resist fascism. Some say that without the people’s liberation army fascism cannot be defeated. Others say that democracy can be restored by uniting the entire opposition. They may wait for that. The essential task confronting us is to be courageous and unite all the protests, all the resistance being waged by the people. Every crisis, he asserted, also opens up new opportunities, and we must seize them to weld into a bulwark of resistance through the course of struggle.

Subhojit Bagchi observed that the BJP has been active in preparing the ground for its expansion since last fifteen to twenty years. Modi and the RSS are trying to divert anger against deprivation towards the Muslims by scapegoating them. He also said that Modi’s actions are also giving rise to a situation whereby people’s distress will increase and their anger will intensify. Modi is trying to remove whatever obstacles are there in the path of global capital to make fortunes here and thereby deepen the integration of our economy with the global economy. This is a sure enough recipe for further marginalization of the people and it may cause BJP’s social base to turn against it. As an instance he said that the traders of Burrabazar – the traditional base of BJP – hit the streets raising slogans against GST and Modi. He concluded by observing that if the left can go back to its traditional base of workers and peasants and the middle class, they can provide an alternative to the BJP.

The last speaker Abul Basher refuted many of the Sangh myths about Muslim population growth, forced conversion and expansion. He also held that today the targets of attack by the saffron forces are people belonging to lower castes—the dalits as well as the Muslims. And the Government is trying to hit at the relatively economically empowered Muslims in a situation where Muslims are already economically and socially marginalized.

The symposium passed resolutions condemning the censorship of a documentary on Amartya Sen, the pressure of Adani on the EPW journal that forced the editor to resign; as well as censorship of documentaries on the Kashmiri resistance and the JNU student movement. 