The inter-relationship of different countries in the world political system under capitalism betrays its usual “combined and unequal” patterns of development. Right now, as if in strange lock-step, the social base behind Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has suddenly been fragilized by a mass movement begun by students nation-wide in defense of secularism, while US President Donald Trump has at the very same moment out-of-the-blue suffered a frontal attack in an editorial of Christianity Today, the evangelical newspaper founded by Billy Graham, calling for Trump’s removal from office. So, at the same time, both right-wing leaders find their hegemonic control of their bases shaken. And, when hegemony shakes, it can be very near to falling apart – by definition. These are both signs of hope in the face of the rise of right-wing forces, and fascist tendencies.
Narendra Modi came in as Indian Prime Minister in 2014 and two years later in 2016, Donald Trump came in as US President. Both are populist nationalists of the extreme right-wing kind that rely on the blind loyalty of a fundamentalist religious social base. They came to power by the accretion to this base of other forces like the disaffected petit bourgeoisie feeling neglect and the weakened labour movement, being attacked by the rise of the dual forces of automation and small enterprise bosses. And alongside them, other strong-men were also elected – like Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines in 2016 and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil in 2018.
Modi challenged by mega demonstrations, part of his base fragilized
Now, Modi has been exposed by a combination of students, workers, opposition political parties, and State Legislative Assemblies, all mobilized against his attack on the secular nature of the Indian State. The Hindutva (Hindu State) Modi aims at has been exposed for all to see for what it is: a cold-blooded conspiracy against the secularism that is the foundation of the modern Indian state. And this Modi program entails the cruel treatment of the minority communities, in particular Muslims, something that Modi has long been guilty of. The Modi government plot is a three-pronged attack that the broad masses of the people have successfully decoded as an attack on secularism.
First, in August this year, Modi defied the “founding” special autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, taking over federal control, splitting it in two, so as to integrate it into India. This opens the way to attacking broader aspects of India’s “founding” Constitutional set up, like its secularism. Modi’s closeness to Netanyahu immediately made many in India suspicious that an Israeli-type colonization would begin in Jammu and Kashmir.
Second, Modi passed the Citizens Amendment Act (CAA), purporting to accept refugees from minority communities of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but not Muslims, mimicking Trump’s anti-Muslim ban.
Third, the CAA immediately posed the question of the danger of the CAA being implemented in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (NRC). What is this NRC? It is an attempt to make a national register of all citizens. So far, it has only been implemented in one State, Assam, where the Register was made public on 31 August this year. Nearly 2 million people did not have the documentation necessary to prove they were not immigrants. Amongst these, hundreds of thousands were Bengali-speaking Hindus, mainly poor or cast out by their families, and this produced massive anger amongst part of the BJP base. So, the CAA was brought it to calm this anger in its base. On 20 November, federal Home Minister Amit Shah announced in the Lok Sabha that the NRC would be extended to the whole country. Then, the CAA had another effect. People put two-and-two together and found that the CAA is designed to re-grant rights to people (citizens and others) who fail to get into the National Register of Citizens but only if they are not Muslims. Muslim people who do not get together the required documentation will thus be the only ones to be declared illegal immigrants.
It is the collective ability to see through this plot that has paved the way for broad masses of people of India – a sophisticated people in political terms compared with, say, the USA – to unite in defence of secularism, and thus in defense of Muslim people being excluded by a religious qualification.
So Modi’s hegemonic control over his social base is now shaken by the NRC-CAA protests. For example, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United in power in Bihar is a BJP ally, and backed the CAA, but has now announced that Bihar will not undertake the NRC exercise. And Modi has been forced to say publicly that there has never been a plan to do the NRC, thus further fragilizing his Government by publicly saying the oppositite of what his own Home Minister Amit Shah says. This is what happens when hegemony begins to crack. In West Bengal, the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is leading demonstrations of hundreds of thousands against the NRC-CAA. So, there, too the BJP is being challenged. There have been demonstrations literally all over the country.
Trump sees crack in Evangelical Belt Support
At exactly the same moment, Donald Trump has been exposed for moral deficiencies by part of his social base in the evangelical community. The editorial in Christianity Today is an all-out attack on Donald Trump’s capacity to be President. Words like “profoundly immoral”, “moral deficiencies”, “grossly immoral” are used to describe Trump’s character. Here are just two paragraphs that give an idea of the basis on which the editorial calls for his removal altogether from office:
“… the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.
“The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”
On this basis, the publication calls for his removal from office. Trump’s hegemonic control over his evangelical Christian base is now shaken.
In political struggle, we must always remember to take hope from the fact that hegemony in a dangerous leader’s base needs only to begin to crack in order to break down. But, to be able to build something better in the future, it is not enough to bring down tyrants, but we also need to organize politically so that we can construct socialism, as we bring down tyranny.