Shahzeb Khanzada presented a cogent and historically informed analysis of fascism in his program on April 22, 2022, which provoked an immediate reaction. Interestingly, he did not name any (Pakistani) names, but it was immediately understood on both sides to whom he was referring. There is one man whose politics fits the bill – and we all know who he is. Some folk protested Khanzada’s mordant analogy citing their leader never committed the mass atrocities fascists did in the past. They are wrong. Fascism should not be reduced to Nazism. Fascism is far broader than a single historical case; fascism is a state of mind.
The most profound analysis of Fascism comes from Robert Paxton. He distinguishes Fascism as an ideology from a Fascist regime, i.e., the former in practice, in his book, The Anatomy of Fascism (2004). Paxton suggests that a fascist regime may be genocidal, but brutality is not a necessary condition for Fascism itself. Nonetheless, it can turn violent in practice. By the same token, a fascist is not necessarily identified by his genocidal tendencies but through his nationalist, revivalist, revisionist ideological project at the helm of which is a strongman with an unmatched capacity to alter a nation’s destiny. Hence, what’s brewing in Pakistan is a worldview that can potentially turn into a full-fledged popular totalitarian regime.
In Paxton’s view, Fascists are obsessively preoccupied with perceived communal decline, humiliation, and victimhood at the hands of antagonists – known and unknown. Their political project, hence, is one of ‘national revival.’ Unlike other utopian ideological projects (for example., Marxism), Fascism has no intellectual base; it has indeed a mythological foundation based on a sympathetic reinterpretation of history and an idealized image of the future mirroring the past glory. Fascism is built on abstract promises. It’s a simplistic manifesto of a highly stylized scenario that the community should follow to climb out of their pit of indignity.
This promised revival is spearheaded by a ‘reluctant’ leader who finds himself in that role out of his (always a ‘his’) sheer sympathy for the downtrodden under the circumstances created by someone else. Those ‘someone else’ are the treacherous elites who conspired with nefarious forces to undercut the predestiny of otherwise pure and ideal people. The leader proposes an outright rebellion against the foes – domestic and foreign. The restoration of glory and the achievement of the predestined position is only made possible by a compensatory cult of unity embodied by a mass party of militantly committed nationalists elevated from their ignoramus servitude through enlightening party propaganda. The purpose of the ‘nation as party’ is to assist the leader build a utopia for all.
National revival in a fascist project should be carried out at any cost. Fascism may have to make alliances with traditional elites when necessary – only to be betrayed by them at some point. Because the system was designed by those who wanted to keep the nation under servitude, rules and procedures may not be respected. Although it may appear that the leader is sometimes irrational and whimsical, one should not abandon their absolute loyalty to him because ‘he knows better’. Whatever he does, he does it for the good of his people. Remember, he did not want to be a leader. He could have had an excellent life elsewhere, outside politics, but he chose not to for the love of his people. Hence, unquestioned obedience to the leader and the collective becomes a necessary condition in a fascist society.
Fascism assumes the tide is against the people who have to overcome any opposition – domestic or foreign – by all means necessary. The ‘greater good of the people’ legitimizes all illegitimate means, including righteous violence. Some elements ought to be weeded out to make the garden blossom. The system is rigged in favor of treacherous elites, so voting rights should only be reserved for those who ‘understand the game’ because the ignoramus masses – all those Patwaris and Jialas –, oblivious to the wretched plots of the evil forces against their beloved leader, would keep bringing those foreign agents to power again and again. They should be educated – and, if necessary, disciplined.
This all sounds familiar, isn’t it? Khan could have a comfortable life, but he chose to fight against traitors like Sharifs, Bhutoos, and Zardaris, who have been sucking the lifeblood of our simpleton nation for decades. Pakistan could have had become a true Islamic Welfare nation-state like the just and glorious State of Madinah had they not collaborated with America and Britannia to keep Pakistanis enslaved. They had rigged the system in their favor to take turns in running the state, but Khan has finally foiled that plan. He is the messiah we all had been waiting for. He knows the West (and the Rest better) than anyone else, so he understands the game better than any traditional politician who, by the way, have done nothing but betray our trust again and again. Only Khan and no one else could lead the nation to its destined glory.
Khan was about to awaken the nation from her deep slumber when once again, the foreign powers conspired with their petty agents to remove him from office. See, what other proof do you need for his character? When the cabal saw Khan was onto making Pakistan an independent nation, they imposed on us once again the stooges who tell us ‘beggars cannot be choosers’. America and friends bought everyone: the political parties, the media, the intellectuals, the common folk. The only people they could not buy are Khan and his loyal entourage, who will once again come to power to achieve what they have been destined to do: the State of Madinah (juxtapose that with the Germania, the Akhand Bharat, the Manifest Destiny, the Kingdom of Heaven).
To sum up, fascism is not just genocidal Nazism. Fascism is a state of mind that compels citizens to forsake their individuality for collectivity; their reason for instinct; and their agency for an absolute and unquestioned loyalty to their leader. Fascism lives on a sense of unachieved destiny, perceived victimhood, and emotional appeal to the masses. It paints an elaborate picture of a glorious future, and the first ones to fall its victims are the youth living in a dysfunctional society where their life chances are limited. They see an escape, a future – albeit a false one – amidst hopelessness. They become victims of elaborate propaganda, alternative facts, and false prophets.
What Shahzeb Khanzada was describing then was this state of mind that has poisoned our community; it bears warnings of something lethal brewing underneath that could potentially turn into a calamity sooner or later if this illness is not properly and timely diagnosed!