Fascism’s Blurred Lines | VOICES

Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur, a life-long political worker who has dedicated his life to the Baloch struggle, and the fight for a more just society.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, a life-long political worker who has dedicated his life to the Baloch struggle, and the fight for a more just society.

In Sindh, national liberation fighters are often labeled by liberal intellectuals as fascists. This is an incendiary claim, and one that prompts a response. 

First, what exactly is fascism? It is a way of organizing a society in which a government, ruled by a dictator, controls the lives of its people and forbids any questioning or disagreement. The word comes from the Latin fasci, meaning ‘bundle’, and goes back to the Roman Empire, when it was used to refer to the forceful inclusion of different people or nations into one entity. Today, fascism appears in covert ways in countries like Iran, Turkey, and yes, Pakistan—although not in the way liberals might think. 

The Pakistani state uses tactics to create disunity, dismay, and distraction among populations that might otherwise rise up. People face humiliation at the hands of the Army, Rangers, Frontier Corps, intelligence agencies, and the police. These governmental bodies also use obscurantist and delusory tactics to divert attention away from their injustices by emphasizing the injustices of the past. Here in Sindh, they point to the problems of Talpur rule. Making people powerless is easy when they are divided, deluded, and in disarray. Aristotle says tyrants employ means which help them govern with ease. It is impossible to be overthrown if men do not have confidence in one another or faith in themselves. This, my friends, is fascism.

And yet, liberals promote the state agenda over nationalism. The effect of this is deadly: State violence against nationalists becomes not only necessary, but legal and justified. This is exactly what’s happening in Balochistan, Sindh, and Gilgit Baltistan. The state operates under the assumption that it knows how to care for people, however, it never actually aims to fulfill peoples’ needs—it just wants to trick you and me and others into obedience; it delivers blows with an iron fist in velvet gloves. Those who say that nationalism is fascism are helping to deliver these blows, and in this way, are complicit in crimes against humanity. If this is their liberalism, then what will their fascism be? 

Certainly, nationalism should not be limited to hurling abuses at the oppressor, but then neither should liberalism support state violence in the name of democracy and amity. You cannot go support the state just because the nationalist parties are not what you desire them to be. Sheikh Saadi says: 

agar az jahaan huma shawad madoom

kas na rawad zair-e-sayyta-e-boom

(If the legendary Huma has died out here 

You should seek not the shadow of the owl instead)

The excuse that nationalist parties are not good enough does not in turn justify the support of a fascist state because, let me assure you, the Pakistani state will never be for the people. The violence against Bengali nationalists in present-day Bangladesh remains overlooked and forgotten. There, too, were intellectuals who supported the army and other perpetrators of violence with the same argument that nationalism is fascism. Were Bengalis the fascists when they were demanding their national rights, dignity, and freedom, or was it the Pakistani establishment who was fascist? Is the demand for rights to self-determination in Balochistan and Sindh fascism? Nationalism also prompts the Palestinians and the Kurds in Turkey to demand their rights and homeland. Are they too fascists, or is the argument of nationalism being fascism limited to the demands of Baloch and Sindhi people?  I don’t think that demanding the right to be free is fascism, but I do think that the suppression of the right to national self-determination is. 

The Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin notes that “when [domination and oppression] are done for the greater glory of the State, for the preservation or the extension of its power, it is all transformed into duty and virtue…There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: ‘for reasons of state’.” 

The horrors perpetrated ‘for reasons of state’ in Bangladesh, Balochistan, Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should be enough to make the liberal intellectuals understand the essence of the state, and the fact that the people, rather than the state or material interests, have to have priority. 

Nationalists are furthermore often condemned for their violence, but what is conveniently forgotten is that this violence is an answer to the greater violence perpetrated by the state. Intifadas do not happen out of the blue. And yet, the violence of the state gets a blanket approval, while nit picking is reserved for the nationalists. If liberals ever do condemn state violence, it is in the most mild and timid form. 

Frequently, the huge sacrifices of nationalists for their cause are made an object of opprobrium by the liberals—they say it is needless since there is very little chance of success. However, the sacrifices of Vietnamese under Ho Chi Minh against the Americans were not needless, nor were the sacrifices of Libyans under Omar Mukhtar against Italy, or the intifadas of the Palestinians against Israeli occupation. There are countless examples of national struggles that achieved success after huge sacrifices. Friedrich Nietzsche says, “No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” Indeed, the struggle for national liberation is the struggle for the privilege of self ownership.

People who denounce nationalism because nationalists are demanding their right to their land and resources also forget the words of Frantz Fanon: “For a colonised people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”  Without their homeland being free of exploitation and oppression, no one can live in dignity and peace. The other option is submission and slavery, regarding which Immanuel Kant says, “One who makes himself a worm cannot complain afterwards if people step on him.”

I prefer to be a fascist who stands up for national liberation rather than a submissive and docile liberal who supports state oppression of people fighting for their rights in the name of federalism and the unity of nations under it. It is always fascism that opposes national liberation under different subterfuges and alibis, which the liberals then promote as their own. If Khair Bakhsh Marri, Makhdum Bilawal, Sher Mohammad Marri, Majeed Langave, Ali Sher Kurd, Hameed Baloch, Sirai Qurban, Balaach Marri, Akbar Khan Bugti, and all those who have died and lived for Balochistan and Sindh were fascists, then I would be honored to be counted among them.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur is a human rights and political activist who has been associated with the Baloch national struggle for nearly five decades. He wrote a weekly column for the Daily Times, but was then proscribed under pressure from authorities.

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