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Fascism and Education: A Rationale Look into Sharda University Case

Fascist ideology is based on the premise that ‘state is an absolute and citizens are the subordinate units.’ To uphold the supremacy of state- co-ordination, discipline and sacrifice are required from the people. And education as a social control agency is the only tool which can be used to achieve the above stated objectives to ensure the supremacy of state in a more politically colored form.

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On 6th May 2022, an Assistant Professor (ad hoc) of Sharda University Waqas Farooq Kuttay who is currently pursuing PhD from Jamia Millia Islamia in Political Science had been suspended on a question he had asked in an exam of first year B.A Political Science honors.

Question number 6 of Section B carrying 7 marks reads “Do you find any similarities between Fascism/Nazism and Hindu right-wing (Hindutva)? Elaborate with arguments?

The very first thing one should borne in the mind that this question did not establish any hypothesis like ‘yes that there are similarities’, rather asked the opinion which could be both Yes or No with arguments. 

Basis of Fascist Educational Theory

Fascism believes in the suppression of individual rights over national interest or collective aspirations to achieve its political ends. For achieving these political ends they take the path of wars for utilizing the human energies rather than realizing the utility of peace. It believes in the formation of state through wars and hatred on the basis of their Fascist ideology. This ideology is totally opposed to Marxist doctrine which formed on Historical Materialism.               

Historical Materialism primarily opposed to the idea that “The ideas of ruling class are, in every age, the ruling ideas.” It is based on idea that history is made up of struggle between different social classes, where exchange of ideas was one of the pre requisite.                                                                                                                    

Fascist ideology is based on the premise that ‘state is an absolute and citizens are the subordinate units.’ To uphold the supremacy of state- co-ordination, discipline and sacrifice are required from the people. And education as a social control agency is the only tool which can be used to achieve the above stated objectives to ensure the supremacy of state in a more politically colored form.

Totalitarian State

Conceptually, totalitarian state denotes the idea of suppression of individualism and control the individual life forcefully. It restricts individual freedom and operates more in a centralized manner with coercion. It is one of the tools through or under which Fascist leaders establish fascist education system and ensures the supremacy of state. This concept asserts “Nothing outside or above the state, nothing against the state, everything within the state, everything for the state.”[1]

“Totalitarian education rests on the principle of anti-rationalism, which denies the tenet of early liberals that a rational capacity is in men, thought it be but the seed of reason, as Locke said, which may lie dormant or be developed. For this it finds encouragement in certain tendencies of recent psychology which stresses the emotional, irrational side of man, and reduces learning to a mechanic conditioning of reflexes.”[2]

Anti-Pluralism

Pluralism being the foundational concept of any democratic and egalitarian society has been discarded by the fascist forces. Fascist ideology doesn’t believe in the pluralistic society, rather based on common culture or mythical race. It discourages the co-existence of different cultures in a society or state. RSS for an instance with the help of its political wing BJP aiming to achieve anti-pluralistic society i.e., Akhand Bharat. To achieve this objective various universities, colleges who promote pluralism, rationality, are under continuous attack by the BJP and its goons. When education is made subservient to any party or ideology, it develops training of the mind and becomes important tool for the indoctrination of political principles more in an end form.

Idealism

Idealism is one of the basic tenets of fascist ideology with regards to educational reforms. Through these reforms based on their ideology they look forward to establishing a political school to shape national consciousness. With the development of consciousness these institutions produce political soldiers for the advancement of their fascist ideology.

If any teacher is found not following their ideal curriculum often set by fascist state or failed to shape the consciousness of students (political soldiers) in a manner state wants, faces suspension like that of which transpired in Sharda University. A practice which was common in the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini in Italy. “By the decree of January 1927 any school may be abolished by the Italian government if its teachings are found incorrect, also teachers and professors may be dismissed by the government order.”[3]

Giovanni Gentile Reforms

Professor Giovanni Gentile appointed as an education minister in Mussolini’s first cabinet. He formed the basis of Fascist education in Italy through various educational reforms. One of the major reform he brought in is the introduction of religious studies in curriculum. Many liberal thinkers opposed this idea because they were fearful of the domination of church ideas (mainly Catholics, because Catholics were in the majority that time), over state. This reform considered as fascist primarily because fascist argues that education must evoke the common will among the individuals which will eventually become law and the state. And religious studies perceived as one of the best tool to create common will which results in the emergence of collectivism which is the basis of any fascist and totalitarian state. Gentile idea of state has been derived from Hegel’s idea which argues that liberty is to be sought and won.

In India, the government of the day BJP is following the same Fascist Educational reforms by introducing the Gita into the school curriculum. Thus, rather than creating a moral state they are emphasizing much more on establishing ethical state characterized by struggle, conflict and opposition which are more important for them than democratic ideals.    

Another Fascist educational reform carried out by Gentile which matches the current suspension of teacher from Sharda University is to make private educational institution subject of government supervision. Now in India under BJP rule not only education but the practice of it often carried out under its ideological supervision. 

What Does This Teach Us?

This is not happening for the first time. “In 2021, the Central University of Kerala initiated disciplinary action against an assistant professor at the Department of International Relations and Politics, Gilbert Sebastian, after he called the RSS “proto-fascist” during an online class on ‘Fascism and Nazism.’”[4]

Whether there is a similarity between Hindutva and Fascism or not, is a matter of debate and personal opinion. But, suspending any teacher merely on the basis of asking neutral question is clearly a sign of Fascist regime which is superimposing its ideology of a state over individual-institutions.

Today, Fascist education is one of the biggest challenges to the liberal education system of this country. Now the choice is on us whether we want to form a society based on hatred, fear, intolerance, lynching, genocide, coercion or a society which works for the development of freedom of thought, tolerance, liberty, independence, expression.

It is WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA have to decide and make the choice for a golden and sustainable future of this country.

References:-

[1] Luigi Sturzo. “The Totalitarian State”, Social Research (3), No. (2), 1936, p. 222.

[2] Thomas Woody. “Principles of Totalitarian Education”, Proceedings of the American Philosophy Society (82), No. (1), 1940, p. 48.

[3] Constance F. Stecher. “Education Under Fascism”, The Social Studies (29), No. (4), 1938, p. 175.

[4] https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.thewire.in/article/education/sharda-university-professor-hindutva-nazism/amp

Bibliography:-

  1. Constance F. Stecher. “Education Under Fascism”, The Social Studies (29), No. (4), 1938, p. 173-177.
  2. Luigi Sturzo. “The Totalitarian State”, Social Research (3), No. (2), 1936, p. 222-235.
  3. Thomas Woody. “Principles of Totalitarian Education”, Proceedings of the American Philosophy Society (82), No. (1), 1940, p. 39-55.
  4. https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.thewire.in/article/education/sharda-university-professor-hindutva-nazism/amp
  5. https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.timesofindia.com/city/noida/noida-sharda-university-suspends-assistant-professor-over-fascism-question/amp_articleshow/91409056.cms
  6. https://www.google.com/amp/s/theprint.in/india/similarities-between-fascism-hindutva-row-erupts-over-sharda-uni-question-prof-suspended/947701/%3famp
  7. https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/hindutva-and-fascism-they-may-not-be-identical-but-why-suspend-a-teacher-who-asked-students-to-compare-the-two-7913525/

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