Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lenin in Tripura: The Many Pleasures of ‘Hindu Rashtra'

Pavel Tomar

Nothing reveals the logic of Sangh Parivar better than Goebbels’s quip about culture: ‘When I hear the word “culture”, I reach for my gun’. The standard interpretation makes us read this statement in terms of historical empiricism: in order to defend his ‘pure’ German culture from ‘outsiders’ and ‘enemies’ like Jews, gypsies and communists, Goebbels would use a gun to eradicate them, like he did, as Hitler’s minister, with wars and concentration camps. However, Slavoj Žižek aims at a kind of speculative shift, and proposes that the gun itself is the German culture that Goebbels wants to defend. And a leftist reversal of this statement: ‘When I hear the word “gun”, I reach for culture’, to which we will return in the latter half of this essay.  

The first thing that strikes us is in the destruction of Lenin’s statues in Tripura is the sheer excess of such acts: when electoral power has been already wrested from a communist party which is on retreat elsewhere, why go on an overdrive to destroy the visual cultural icons, attack the cadres (a large number of whom joined either Trinamool Congress or BJP in Bengal), ransack party offices? Furthermore, the upholders of Hindu Rashtra are reported to have also “played football” with broken the pieces of the statues, like bloody-minded characters in Bollywood films who are not content after simply killing their enemies: they must go beyond ordinary killing in a kind of orgy of violence, as if to exorcise the ghosts even after the death. No wonder that Marx compared Communism to a ghost, a spectre in his Communist Manifesto. The words used by Narendra Modi and Ram Madhav reminded closely the words of Uma Bharati after Babri Masjid demolition: ‘Now I can die in peace.’ In other words, it is an act of fascist aesthetic in politics, similar to Goebbels’ reaching for his gun, to lay behind the spectre of communism.