October 29, 2023
Pernicious Worldview of RSS

THE speech of the RSS chief at the annual Vijayadashami rally in Nagpur is supposed to contain the authoritative pronouncements of the Sangh.  In the rally on October 24, 2023, Mohan Bhagwat’s speech continued with the theme of the last few Vijayadashami speeches, where the Sangh totally identified with the Modi government and elaborated the worldview of the RSS-guided government. 

This time, the speech was obviously geared to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections with a call to the ranks of the RSS to rally behind the BJP and the government which, according to Bhagwat, is working assiduously to make India on its own a great power. But Bhagwat introduced a new threat being posed by some people who do not want India to progress. “Hence they tried to create discrimination in society; an attempt to break the constructive collectivity, create separation and conflict”.  He called these destructive forces “cultural Marxists or woke, or the awakened ones”.  He painted a dark picture of how these forces work: “Their modus operandi involves taking control of the media and academia and plunging education, culture, politics and social environment into confusion, chaos and corruption”.

What is to be made of these convoluted and cryptic formulations? It is interesting that Bhagwat has used the term ‘cultural Marxists’, something which is used by the far-right and neo-fascist circles internationally. According to them, ‘cultural Marxism’ is conspiracy to destroy western morality and civilisation and to impose an elite concept of political correctness.  The RSS is borrowing this term to smear the Left and all those democratic forces who criticise the fascistic ideology of the RSS and the authoritarian attempts of the Modi government to ‘homogenise’ Indian society and culture. Actually, there is nothing called ‘cultural Marxism’, something which Bhagwat himself admits to, when he says that they moved away from Marx in the 1920s.

‘Woke’ and ‘woke culture’ are also used by the rightwing to attack those who speak out against racism and discrimination of various types of minorities. But here too, it is not the Marxists who practice ‘woke’, but bourgeois-liberals in the west.  Bhagwat is imitating the rhetoric of the ultra-conservative right to attack the Left in India for being alien to ‘Bharatiya’ culture. It is also the justification for the RSS-led drive to communalise the educational system and to target universities like JNU. Just as ‘academia’, media is also subject to control and suppression as seen in the way `NewsClick’ has been attacked.

The actual target of the RSS chief is the Left. Something which he has taken up as seen in his recent speech at Pune at a book launch, where he called for struggle against the ‘Left ecosystem’ which, according to him, has infiltrated the educational system and other institutions.

The RSS is increasingly concerned about the growing assertion of the different socially-oppressed groups for social justice. It also views any state or regional aspirations as divisive. No wonder, Bhagwat sees the violence and strife in Manipur as caused by external and disruptive forces and not due to the narrow identity politics promoted by the BJP and the Sangh in north-east India. 

This theme of Bhagwat was echoed by Narendra Modi in his Dussehra rally speech in Delhi on the same day. He talked about defeating the forces which are trying to divide the country in the name of casteism and regionalism.  Modi sees the demand for caste census as an instrument to divide the country through casteism at a time when he is engaged in making India the third biggest economy in the world.  For both Bhagwat and Modi, the opening of the Ram temple at Ayodhya is a symbol of national regeneration. They posed this as a symbol of ‘cultural unity’ as against the disruptive forces.

The speeches of Bhagwat and Modi make it evident that in their drive to establish a Hindutva authoritarian state, they will target the educational system and the pluri-cultural fabric to weed out all ‘alien’ elements.  The total convergence of the RSS and the Modi government in fulfilling this pernicious aim was on full display. 

(October 25, 2023)