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Category: Politics Page 1 of 11

fascism

Fascism – The Tale of Mussolini’s Blackshirt Militia

Imagine living in an authoritarian ultra-nationalist country characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society, which promptly promotes gun violence and total control. Choking. But that’s exactly how Italy was, under Fascism.

 

What is fascism?

Fascism came to prominence in early 20th-century Italy. Opposed to liberalismMarxism, and anarchism, fascism is placed on the far-right within the traditional left–right spectrum. It is a method of politics. It’s a rhetorical way of running for power – the fascist ideology centers on power and is a technique to gain power.

As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer. Fascism was the happy medium between boom-and-bust-prone liberal capitalism, with its alleged class conflict, wasteful competition, profit-oriented egoism, with its violent and socially divisive persecution of the bourgeoisie.

 

The beliefs of fascism

Fascism believes in the superiority of the nation – a collection of people bound together by race, ethnicity, or culture. Germans and Italians are examples of people forming nations. The way to achieve national superiority is through the state. The ultimate goal of the major fascist regimes that have existed, like the regimes of the Italian Fascist Party and the German Nazi Party, was to pursue national greatness.

The type of state needed to fulfill this goal is anti-democratic and totalitarian. Such a state is anti-democratic because it eliminates democratic institutions, like the electoral, parliamentary, and multiparty systems, that frustrate this goal of national greatness. 

  • Democratic elections are problematic because the masses elect candidates who appeal to the masses’ self-interest. This does not guarantee that the candidates have the nation’s interests in mind. This weakens the state and, ultimately, the nation.
  •  Parliament is problematic because the parties in it spend more time arguing than implementing policies. Indeed, Hitler referred to Parliament as a “twaddling shop”.
  • Other parties are problematic because, by competing with fascist parties to gain power, they prevent fascist parties from pursuing the ultranationalist goal.

Fascism, thus, is the ideology of nationalism upheld by an anti-democratic and totalitarian state.

It generally flourishes in countries with strong nationalism that attracts people to fascism’s ultranationalist goals and weak democracies that are incompetent and unresponsive. Consequently, citizens become disenchanted with it and were willing to abandon it for another regime type – fascism.

 

The rise of Fascism

From his birth in 1883, Benito Mussolini was a revolutionary. He founded his own newspaper and made it into the voice of all the elements—the veterans, the unemployed, the renegade socialists, the nationalists, and so forth—who were discontented and disillusioned with democracy. The goal was to make the citizens feel like victims, to make them feel like they’ve lost something and that the thing they’ve lost has been taken from them by a specific enemy – all the conditions that prevailed to the political and social situations in post- World War I Germany and Italy. Nationalism, in the form of national resentment, was potent. Italians and Germans believed that their national pride had been humiliated. While Italians felt this way because they believed their country had not been awarded the amount of territory it should have been awarded after War ended, the German government had accepted the Treaty of Versailles that required Germany to accept the blame for starting the War and imposed harsh reparations, on Germany. The Fascists and Nazis were appealing because they promised to restore the national greatness that citizens felt was lacking.

Around Mussolini’s banner there rapidly grew up an army of followers—from gangsters to sincere patriots. Some of them were organized into strong-arm squads, armed and uniformed as “Blackshirt Militia.” 

The Fascists put up candidates in the parliamentary elections of 1921. Altogether they received only about 5 percent of the total popular vote, but they succeeded in planting the impression that they had the solution to all of Italy’s postwar ills. The existing government had none, and so the March on Rome—a Colossal bluff—turned out a colossal success.

 

Hitler’s Germany

As seeds of World War II began to germinate in the 1930s, Mussolini believed that Britain and France were doomed by low birth rates and the relatively high age of their populations, and he determined that Italy should ally itself with rapidly growing Germany. When the Germans under Hitler easily invaded Poland in 1939, Mussolini concluded that Germany would quickly prevail and entered the war on its side. Hitler planned to return the German nation to its position as the culture-founder of this earth. Thus, the Fascist and Nazi party together established totalitarian rule. 

 

The fall of fascism

When the king had called on Mussolini to form a government in October 1922, very few people in the world had any idea of what was meant by a totalitarian form of government. Mussolini himself probably did not know what he was going to do—except stay in power. They thought Italy could later return to freedom, and in the meantime, fascism could take care of the crisis. Fascism taught the world and Hitler many of the tricks of totalitarian misrule. The final collapse of fascism, though set off when Mussolini’s frightened lieutenants threw him overboard, was brought about by allied military victories plus the open rebellion of the people.

 

The present state

Given that fascism was so clearly a response to the conditions of the 20s and 30s, it’s surprising that it has any purchase today. But bona fide fascism still exists in two forms. First, what you might call cultists – a religious sect generally extremist or false, with its followers living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader. They can be traced among the people who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017, a march that ended in the death of a counter-protestor. The second kind of fascist is the neo-fascist -a type of one-party dictatorship that puts a nation and often race above the individual. It stands for a centralized government headed by a dictator.

Lessons from the past
Italian and German experiments with fascism offer urgent lessons for our own day.
First, the strongest protection against the one-man rule is deep and widespread respect for democracy. Mussolini undermined free speech and freedom of the press. He weakened the legislative and judicial branches of government and tried to control what people saw, heard, and read.
A second lesson from fascism is to prevent the manufacture of emergencies. By creating a widespread sense that times were desperate, Mussolini, like Hitler, was able to suppress democratic institutions and tyrannize the population.
Another lesson is the danger of racism. In arguing that whites are superior to Africans and Asians, Mussolini laid the groundwork for exploitation, oppression, and even extermination.
Ironically, it is quite possible that had Italy’s military and the economy prospered during the 1940s, Mussolini would not have fallen.
People all over the world need to remember that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Fascism and the hatred it breeds can undermine goodness and inflame evil. Democratic convictions that required centuries to build up can be demolished within months. This cautionary tale of Mussolini’s rise to power serves as an enduring reminder of the fragility of freedom.

privacy

PRIVACY VS NATIONAL SECURITY

Let’s just be honest. Nothing that you do online is truly “private” and at its crux, privacy is a façade. You’re kidding yourself if you believe otherwise.

The Preamble of Indian constitution opens with the glorious words “We the People..” but the tug-of-war between individual privacy and national security forces us to rethink it as “We the People under watch”. As assertive as it is, privacy is a fundamental right “guaranteed” but the shaking reliance on citizen privacy and indecisive debates against security brings the sphere back on determining the scope of these provisions and even harder to strike a balance between the two.

Elections

WEST BENGAL ELECTIONS 2021

The stage is set up for one of the most competitive battles ever fought in Independent India- the poll battle is gearing up in the Eastern state of West Bengal. An incumbent Trinamool Congress (TMC) faces a highly resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party in Bengal. This poll battle will be setting up the tone of future Indian political parties. The two-term Chief Minister Ms. Mamata Banerjee faces an uphill task: to retain the majority in the assembly elections fighting against the most formidable election machinery in the history of India- the BJP. The other stakeholders- the Left-Congress alliance haven’t caught the public attention. The once-mighty Left- after having been vanquished by TMC after a three-decade-long rule is no more formidable. The Congress is not even a shadow of its previous self- having relegated to only a few districts like Malda & Murshidabad. The Trinamool- an offshoot of the Congress-led by its indomitable Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has vehemently opposed the BJP policies at the center. The BJP’s ideologue & the founder of Jan Sangh- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, hails from the state of Bengal had never found electoral success in the eastern state until the 2019 elections. The 2019 LS elections sprang up a surprise: the BJP% vote share rose to 40% from a meager 16%. It won 18 seats mostly concentrated in North Bengal. It was a massive setback for the ruling TMC, which managed to somehow save its fortress. The Bengal electorate is considered to have gradually changed its political perception. The Congress under Siddharth Shankar Ray was vanquished in 1977. Then it took another 34 years to change the ruling party. 

 

Refugee

Political Ramifications of the European Migrant Crisis

History is testament to the fact that despite elaborate legal instruments stressing the importance of civilian-military distinction in international warfare, common people continue to be disproportionately affected in conflict zones across the world. In order to confirm this hypothesis, one need not look beyond the barbaric atrocities of recent wars in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Each of these conflicts brutally disrupted the lives of common people and forced many of them to seek new homes. As a result, from 2014 to 2019, millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa made their way towards Europe, often undertaking perilous journeys through the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Those that survived this journey and made it ashore were often met with inhumane conditions, lack of employment opportunities and other problems that arise as a result of undocumented living. The incompetent and unsatisfactory response of the European Union, which was yet to completely recover from the Euro Zone debt crisis, coupled with the polarized political environment in many European States further compounded the problem. This article will be specifically addressing the political challenges, at both domestic and regional levels, that emerged during and in the aftermath of this crisis.

Taliban

Understanding Terrorism: TALIBAN

In 1979, when the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan to support its communist government, they had to fight a resistance – known as the Mujahideen – supported by the US, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia, among other countries. The Taliban, or “students” in the Afghani language, emerged in northern Pakistan post the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the early 1990s from Afghanistan, when the civil war was still going on. 

boko haram

Understanding Terrorism: Boko Haram

“Religion is so frequently a source of confusion in political life, and so frequently dangerous to democracy, precisely because it introduces absolutes into the realm of relative values.”
― Reinhold Niebuhr

Formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād and commonly known as Boko Haram, there is a jihadist terrorist organization based in Nigeria whose operations expand into the countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon as well. Founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram advocates strict adherence to Sharia law. 

The words Boko Haram essentially translates to ‘Western education is forbidden’ or ‘Western influence is a sin’. The group is against any form of westernization and focuses on propagating Islam amongst people through methods they deem proper and necessary. 

Initially, the purpose of the group was simply to purify Islam through nonviolent methods which is why any warnings that were given to the Nigerian government about it were overlooked. In 2009, Boko Haram’s leader and founder was arrested and it was rumoured that he died while trying to escape from the police and post that, they started to adopt violent methods which commenced a mass prison break encompassing breaking out of 105 Boko Haram members along with 600 other prisoners. 

Random shootings at police and even at common people became popular where the reasons cited were either none or for the revenge of the killing of Mohammed Yusuf. After the death of Yusuf and the jail break out, the reins of the party came in the hands of Abubakar Shekau who was mostly successful in keeping the various Boko Haram factions from fighting. 

Since 2009, Boko Haram has been indulging in suicide bombing and merciless killing of people. The most prominent violent activities include blowing up of the United Nations building in 2011, kidnapping 276 girls from Chibok in 2014 and abduction of 350+ boys from Kankara in 2020. There has been loss of countless lives, uprooting uncountable lives through such acts of terrorism. 

The abduction in 2014 had resulted in a worldwide outcry promoted by #BringBackOurGirls and even though most of the girls were returned, some are still missing. Additionally, these girls have faced rejection in the society because of the stigma surrounding sexual violence. With regards to the kidnapping in 2020, 344 boys have been released, however an unknown number still remain missing. 

A state of emergency had been declared in 2012 which lasted for an entire year. The economy of Nigeria has been hit badly because of Boko Haram since there had been several curfews imposed by the government to restrict the group. Although Nigeria accounts for about 60% of Africa’s population, a majority of its people earn just about $1 per day while having large families to feed. 

Boko Haram has strong connections with various militant groups outside Nigeria, the most popular being Al-Qaeda. Goodluck Jonathan, an ex-president of Nigeria, went so far as to call Boko Haram “the Al-Qaeda in West Africa”. 

In 2019, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, stated that Boko Haram had been technically defeated but the acts of violence by them have only escalated since. In their 18 years of existence, according to the United Nations, about 36000 people have lost their lives and more than 2 million people have been displaced. During their insurgency in 2010, Boko Haram was known as the world’s deadliest terrorist organization according to the Global Terrorism Index in terms of the number of people they killed. Boko Haram uses numerous child soldiers (including 12-year olds) and women for suicide bombers as they blend with the crowd easily and draw lesser suspicion. A study shows that almost 40% of the soldiers in the Boko Haram group are underage.

While the Nigerian government has been receiving support from countries such as China, United States, United Kingdom, etc. in the form of troops and military equipment, it is not enough to squash the efforts of Boko Haram as it has now become too widespread and out of control. Additionally, the Nigerian government still lacks the equipment to confront them. 

What the government could focus on, in light of the surrendering of some militants as well as the return of the abducted kids, is providing services by rehabilitation centres so that they are not rejected by the society and do not go back to Boko Haram. They can perhaps teach them some new skills or provide support which will act as a major difference in the lives of many people who want to start over. 

“Al-Qaeda in West Africa” does require an increased amount of attention from countries all over the world so that it can be quelled and the people of Nigeria can start living their lives without being under the constant threat of being shot. In order to have an extensive knowledge about Boko Haram, the perfect book is “Boko Haram: Inside Nigeria’s Unholy War” by Mike Smith who tells the story from the perspective of a journalist along with the history and insurgence. 

 

SOURCES

Reinhold Niebuhr quote: Religion is so frequently a source of confusion in political… (azquotes.com)

Boko Haram – Wikipedia

Al Qaeda’s West African branch seeks French withdrawal, then negotiations | FDD’s Long War Journal

ISIS

Understanding terrorism: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

The world as we know is characterised by varied social good and evils. Now as we are witnessing more and more advancements and development as the time progresses, so do the social evils. One such cruelty that millions of people around the world have become victims to is terrorism. Terrorism, in simple terms, means the use of violence and other illegal means to harm citizens with a political aim to fulfil. However, what do terrorists really want? In other words, what is it exactly that they seek to achieve? Let’s try to decipher this with the example of one of the biggest and most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world- ISIS.

SAARC

Lesser importance of SAARC

The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has come under serious scrutiny in the last few years. Even after more than three decades of its existence, SAARC’s performance has been less than satisfactory, and its role in strengthening regional cooperation is being questioned.

SAARC is a regional organization that gives its participants a platform to interact. It is a wholly indigenous project not introduced by an outside power and this makes the regional forum free of foreign interference. Unlike the European Union and the ASEAN which were formulated as US-aided, localized resistances to outside hegemons like Russia and China, SAARC came into being out of a genuine need for regional integration.

SAARC is one of the major regional organizations operating today. It occupies a land area greater than the EU and ASEAN, and in terms of GDP, it stands second to the EU. It also enjoys superiority in terms of the population over the two. Although it has a large source of human capital, it is marred by high levels of illiteracy, poverty, and unemployment. 

SAARC has eight member countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. While the organisation was intended to enhance regional cooperation in South Asia, from its very inception, member countries treated it with suspicion and mistrust.

SAARC was first envisioned in the late 1970s by Gen. Ziaur Rahman, the military dictator of Bangladesh. Initially, India was apprehensive about SAARC because it perceived the grouping to be an attempt by its smaller neighbours to unite against it. The Cold War politics of the time too contributed to India’s anxiety. India had a close relationship with the Soviet Union, and it considered Ziaur Rahman to be aligned with the West. It was, therefore, suspicious that SAARC could be an American mechanism to counter Soviet influence in the region. It feared that the association might lead to Asia’s own Cold War, creating a pro-Soviet and an anti-Soviet rift. This would have played against India’s interest since it had close strategic ties with the Soviet Union. However, eventually,   India agreed to join SAARC due to the interest expressed by the neighbouring countries.

Reasons for concerns about the relevance of SAARC :

SAARC is aimed at promoting the welfare of the people; accelerating economic growth, social progress and culture development; and strengthening collective self-reliance. While SAARC has established itself as a regional forum, it has failed to attain its objectives. Numerous agreements have been signed and institutional mechanisms established under SAARC, but they have not been adequately implemented. The South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) is often highlighted as a prominent outcome of SAARC, but that, too, is yet to be implemented. Despite SAFTA coming into effect as early as 2006, the intra-regional trade continues to be at a meagre 5%. 

In the many failures of SAARC, lack of trust among the member countries has been the most significant factor between India and Pakistan. In recent times, Pakistan’s non-cooperation has stalled some major initiatives under SAARC. For example, at the 18th SAARC summit in Kathmandu in 2014, initiatives such as the SAARC–Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA)—crucial for harnessing regional connectivity across South Asia—could be not signed due to Pakistan’s dithering. SAARC faced another setback after the 19th summit scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016 was suspended for an indefinite period after the September 18, 2016 attack on the military base in Uri.

It can be asserted that much of the SAARC’s failures are rooted in a variety of reasons which are listed below:

Enmity between its two Largest States

The biggest obstacle to a functional SAARC is perhaps the rivalry between India and Pakistan, often stunting its growth and development. The long lingering Kashmir dispute has become a great obstacle in its path to progress as complications arising from Indo-Pak tensions tend to harm the organization. 

Fear of Indian Domination 

The asymmetry between India and other member countries in terms of geography, economy, military strength and influence in the global arena make the smaller countries apprehensive. They perceive India as “Big Brother” and fear that it might use the SAARC to pursue hegemony in the region. The smaller neighbouring countries, therefore, have been reluctant to implement various agreements under SAARC.

Role of External Powers, especially China

Some developed nations are always interrupting the SAARC nations. Especially China and America are responsible for the relationship between India and Pakistan. The increasing presence of China in the region and reservations of India with China has created roadblocks.

Unresolved Border and Maritime Issues

SAARC does not have any arrangement for resolving disputes or mediating conflicts. Disputes among the member countries often hamper consensus building, thus slowing down the decision-making process. SAARC’s inability in this regard has been detrimental to its growth. For example – long pending issues between members like fishermen issue between India and Sri Lanka, Teesta water sharing between India and Bangladesh, lack of direct access to Afghanistan to other members except Pakistan have restricted in arriving at common ground for regional integration and also resulted in increased mistrust among the members.

Rising Bilateralism

Given SAARC’s failures, member countries have turned to bilateralism, which in turn has adversely affected the organisation. Bilateralism is an easier option since it calls for dealings between only two countries, whereas SAARC, at a regional level, requires one country to deal with seven countries. Thus, bilateralism decreases the countries’ dependence on SAARC to achieve their objectives, making them less interested in pursuing initiatives at a regional level.

Civilizations Clash

Professor Samuel Huntington has mentioned in his book “The Clash of Civilizations” that SAARC has been a failure because according to him the countries belonging to organizations like the EU belong to the same culture but SAARC countries are those whose cultures are different. India and Pakistan are enemies of each other, they fight on minor things, and then how can these two countries support each other in one organization. No country in the region is having any feeling of belongingness with the other state.

Apart from these SAARC also faces a shortage of resources, and countries have been reluctant to increase their contributions. Almost every member is facing numerous internal crisis like Tamils issue in Sri Lanka, Constitutional crisis in Nepal, religious fundamentalism in Pakistan and Bangladesh, Terrorism and instability in Afghanistan has made these nations inward-looking with not much enthusiasm to achieve collaboration in the subcontinent.

Way Forward for SAARC :

The failure of SAARC to nurture cooperation in South Asia has pushed regional players to search for an alternative. After SAARC, BBIN(Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal), BIMSTEC(the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), BCIM(Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor) has also been initiated. Recently, BIMSTEC has gained more favour as an alternative to SAARC to deliver on connectivity, development, and counter-terrorism efforts because every nation is on board here. However, this does not make SAARC and BIMSTEC alternatives. SAARC is a purely regional organisation, whereas BIMSTEC is interregional and connects both South Asia and ASEAN. SAARC and BIMSTEC complement each other in terms of functions and goals. BIMSTEC provides SAARC countries with a unique opportunity to connect with ASEAN. Therefore, it is vital for the region that the organisation is strengthened. Whatever the flaws of the SAARC so far may be, it is the only platform where the local leaders meet and discuss issues of a region containing 1.7 billion people. It is up to the SAARC leaders to work together for a developed, peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

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