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FASCISM IN INDIA
(Subash Bose, Former President of the Congress Party, with German troops.)
Outside of Germany there was no country more admired than ancient India by the leaders of National Socialist Germany. We have documented the influence of ancient Indian writing in our report on this matter. The racial ideas of ancient India were only a part of the matter. The political philosophy of India's first great empire, the Arthashastra was for a complete totalitarian system of government.
Many westerners are shocked to learn that Gandhi and his pacifism were hardly a big factor in ancient Indian ideas. Furthermore, Gandhi was far more sympathetic to the caste system until very late in his life than many believe in the west. Western liberal intellectuals visiting India are often appalled to see pictures of Gandhi burned and cursed during civil rights demonstrations by India's lower caste citizens.
Between the early 1920s and 1945, fascism was considered by many to be the wave of the future. Fascist parties came to power in several European countries and fascist-influenced ideologues sprang up in many other nations around the world. This trend also manifested itself in developing nations like India. Fascism appealed to native nationalist movements because its activist ideology combined a unifying, national message with socialist-style economic reforms. Its spread was also helped by the fact that as the 1930s went on the fascist states of Italy and Nazi Germany opposed British and French hegemony in the world. To subject colonial peoples, like the massive population of India, opposition to London's imperial rule was the single-most important dimension of the ideology that attracted so many Indians. In addition, India's long tradition of social stratification based on skin color (the caste system) and the existence of a growing Islamic presence that Hindu nationalists found threatening, created conditions conducive to the appeal of Fascism in the sub-continent.
The affinity between fascist Europe and the Indian sub-continent cut both ways. European racialist thinkers, like Arthur de Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, had long been drawn to Hindu culture and religious texts based on their "racial" interpretation of history. Indian historical documents like the Book of Manu had been introduced into western societies early in the 19th century by Englishmen who had sought ways to reinforce Britain's imperial claim to India. Hindu religious texts described a hierarchy of races in the world, with white "Aryans" sitting at the pinnacle of this pyramid. Racialist thinkers saw these ancient writings as proof that white Aryans were the world's original superior race, but that they had been scattered over Asia and Europe by migration and the overwhelming number of "inferior" races. In Europe, evolving racialism finally culminated in Nazism, which drew heavily on symbols derived from Hinduism, like the Swastika.
The quotes on this page throw light on some of the ideological affinity between European Fascism and Indian nationalism. This page is not meant to be an exhaustive catalog of the material that is out there.
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Although he is less well known in the western world than Mahatma Ghandi, Subash Chandra Bose was no minor figure in the history of India's path to independence from the British Empire. He was twice elected President of the Congress Party.
In contrast to the non-violent message of Ghandi, however, Bose advocated a militaristic approach to liberating India. Bose proposed unifying Hindus under the flag of an Indian National Army and compelling the British to quit India using armed force if necessary. To accomplish this goal, Bose argued that Hindus should use any means necessary, even if this meant relying on the support of the Axis Powers, Germany, Italy, and Japan, the extreme nationalist ideologies of which Bose found attractive. Despite subscribing to extreme nationalism, Bose's personal ideology appears to have been marked by an amalgamation of communist and fascist influences. This is apparent in his radically leftist political activities before the Second World War, but also in comments he made praising fascism.
Following his birth in 1897, Bose attended a foreign missionary school, where he demonstrated an early inclination toward being a free thinker. When he graduated in 1919, Bose went to England to qualify for the Indian Civil Service. He accomplished this by 1920 he had returned to Calcutta, where he worked under Chittaranjan Das, a Bengali independence activist. From 1921 on, Bose actively opposed British rule in India. This led to him being arrested no fewer than three times by the British authorities over the course of the decade.
At this time Bose formed close ties with the radical left and in the late 1920s Bose commonly could be heard calling for the formation of a parallel government in India based on the centralized mobilization of peasants and workers. In September 1930, Bose was elected Mayor of Calcutta. British authorities, however, would not tolerate his constant agitation for Indian self-rule. Bose was therefore exiled to Europe in 1933. His appearance in Europe at this time was fortuitous for his ideological development. In Europe, Bose was a traveling spokesman for his countrymen and he met with many important figures, including Benito Mussolini, Alfred Rosenberg, and Czech President Edvard Beneš, in order to promote his cause.
Bose also spoke out brazenly against Mahatma Gandhi and upon returning to Indian public life in 1937 he was twice elected president of the Indian National Congress against Gandhi's wishes. A central part of Bose's platform was calling for national economic planning and the "socialist reconstruction" of India.
With the outbreak of war, Bose stepped up his agitation for Indians to take advantage of British weakness and throw off colonial rule. He organized mass demonstrations, for which he was again arrested by the British. Bose finally was forced to escape India via Afghanistan in January 1941. After traveling through the Soviet Union on an Italian passport, Bose arrived in Rome. From Italy, Bose traveled to Berlin, Germany in order to cultivate Adolf Hitler's support for creating an armed force of Indian prisoners of war captured by the Germans when British forces were defeated in France and Holland in 1940. The notion of forming an Indian National Army had been in Bose's mind a long time. Now, when German power was at its peak, the opportunity presented itself for Bose to form that army. In Berlin, Bose created a Special Bureau for India in the German propaganda ministry and he broadcast speeches on German-sponsored Azad Hind Radio. Bose also founded the Free India Center and created the Indian Legion (4500 soldiers altogether) which was attached to the German Army, but later placed under the authority of the Waffen-SS. The members of the Indian Legion were required to swear allegiance to Hitler and Bose in order to secure German support.
Eventually, Bose came to realize that Germany could not help his cause any further. He therefore set off for India on a German submarine in order to coordinate the formation of an Indian National Army (again using Indian POWs) with the Japanese. Arriving in Singapore in 1943, Bose took over the nascent Indian National Army and supervised its growth into a force of 85,000 men. INA troops eventually fought along the northeastern frontier of India alongside Japanese troops. However, with the defeat of Japan, the INA was also defeated.
Bose is alleged to have dies in an airplane crash in April 1945 while on route to Tokyo.
"I would say we have here in this policy and program a synthesis of what modern Europe calls Socialism and Fascism. We have here the justice, the equality, the love, which is the basis of Socialism, and combined with that we have the efficiency and the discipline of Fascism as it stands in Europe today." -- Subash Bose, Inaugural Speech as Mayor of Calcutta, Sept. 24, 1930. Quoted in Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: A Biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (New York: 1990), p. 234.
"There is a growing feeling in India that the anti-imperialist movement there should be linked up with the anti-imperialist movement in other parts of the world. Modern communications have made it easier to establish this contact ... it is generally recognised in India that political phenomena like imperialism and fascism affect all humanity." -- Subhas Bose, Speech to the French Section of the League Against Imperialism, Paris, March 17, 1936. Quoted in Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: A Biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (New York: 1990), p. 307.
"[Indian politics must have] an authoritarian character. ... To repeat once again, our philosophy should be a synthesis between National Socialism and Communism." -- Subhas Bose, Speech to Students at Tokyo University, November 22, 1944. Subhas Chandra Bose, Fundamental Questions of Indian Revolution (Calcutta: Netaji Research Bureau, 1970), pp. 403-4.
"One is inclined to hold that the next phase in world-history will produce a synthesis between Communism and Fascism. And will it be a surprise if that synthesis in produced in India? ... In spite of the antithesis between Communism and Fascism, there are certain traits in common. Both Communism and Fascism believe in the supremacy of the State over the individual. Both denounce parliamentary democracy. Both believe in party rule. Both believe in the dictatorship of the party and in the ruthless suppression of all dissenting minorities. Both believe in a planned industrial reorganization of the country. These common traits will form the basis of the new synthesis. That synthesis is called ... 'Samyavada' -- an Indian word, which means literally 'the doctrine of synthesis or equality.' It will be India's task to work out this synthesis." -- Subhas Chandra Bose, The Indian Struggle (Bombay, New York: Asia Publishing House,1964), pp. 313f.
Born in February 1906 at Ramtek near Nagpur,
Sri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was otherwise known as "Guruji". Golwalkar
graduated from the
In 1940, Golwalkar became the Sarsanghachalak, or Supreme Organizational Director of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the "National Volunteers Union". It was at this time that Golwalkar became deeply involved in promoting the doctrine of "Hindu national resurgence," which argues that Hindus must unite in order to combat the threats posed to Indian culture by foreigners, especially Muslims and Christians.
Golwalkar has been criticized for having commented favorably on Adolf Hitler and on policies that reflect a fascist influence. The quotations below illustrate some of these tendencies, as Golwalker has argued for the purity of the Hindu "race", support for the oppressive and racist caste system, and admiration for Nazi Germany's efforts to "cleanse" itself of unwanted ethnic minorities.
Golwalker died in June 1973.
"From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race; or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment -- not even citizen's rights." -- Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined (Nagpur: Bharat Publications, 1939), pp. 47f and 55f.
"To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by." -- Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined (Nagpur: Bharat Publications, 1939), p. 35.
"The ultimate vision of our work .. is a perfectly organised state of society wherein each individual has been moulded into a model of ideal Hindu manhood and made into a living limb of the corporate personality of society." -- Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined (Nagpur: Bharat Publications, 1939), p. need page
"There is nothing to prove that it (i.e. the caste system) ever hindered our social developments. Actually the caste system has helped to preserve the unity of our society."-- Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts (Bangalore: Rashtrotthana Sahitya, 1966), p.108.
Founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the "National Volunteers Union," or RSS), is a Hindu nationalist organization created to "protect" the Hindu character of Indian culture. The RSS advocates a radical form of Hindu nationalism called "Hindutva", which is roughly translated as "Hindu-ness". The fundamental principle of "Hindutva" is to establish India as a purely Hindu nation and, ultimately, to expel all other cultures and faiths.
Hedgewar founded the RSS after witnessing riots between Muslims and Hindus. The goal of the movement is to politically mobilize Hindus in defense against perceived threats. Islam is considered to be the most dangerous of these threats.
The first RSS leader to become explicitly connected with rising fascism in Europe was Dr. B.S. Moonje (Hedgewar's mentor), who visited Italy in 1931. Moonje met Mussolini in March of that year and during the week of March 19-24, 1931 he toured a variety of fascist institutions in Rome. These included the Military College, the Central Military School of Physical Education, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education, and, most important, the Balilla (Mussolini's youth organization) and Avanguardisti organizations. Of the Balilla, Moonje wrote,
Moonje took his impressions of these schools back to India with him and became instrumental in laying the groundwork for an expanded Indian military. For example, Moonje's influence was critical for founding the Central Hindu Military Education Society in 1935 and the Bhonsala Military School in September 1938. Moonje's insights and reform efforts were heartily greeted by Hedgewar, who also wanted to militarize Indian society and wanted the RSS to be the vanguard of that militarization.
For their part, the British also believed the RSS to be a fascist-oriented organization. A British intelligence report from 1933 stated explicitly, "It is perhaps no exaggeration to assert that the Sangh hopes to be in future India what the ‘Fascisti’ are to Italy and the ‘Nazis’to Germany."[*]
The RSS maintained close ties to another major Hindutva organization, the Hindu Mahasabha, otherwise known as the Hindu Party. Indeed, the Hindu Party and the RSS sometimes shared leaders. Hedgewar, for example, had been secretary in the Hindu Party between 1926 and 1931, before assuming leadership of the RSS. Similarly, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who became president of the Hindu Party in 1937 upon his released from prison, had close personal ties with Moonje and Hedgewar.
For the rest of the 1930s and into the 1940s, Savarkar vocally defended the notion of Hindu uniqueness and separateness from the Muslim populace. In making his point Savarkar explicitly endorsed Nazi Germany's pan-Germanic ideals and its attempts to eliminate the "foreign" Jewish influence from its midst. To Savarkar, Nazi policies against Jews were purely defensive in nature and completely legitimate given the importance of establishing a unified, singular ethnic nation: "A Nation is formed by a majority living therein. What did the Jews do in Germany? They being in minority were driven out from Germany".[*]
In 1947, following the partition of India and the creation of the Islamic nation of Pakistan, extensive Hindu-Muslim riots broke out. Hindus were expelled en masse from Pakistan into India. This also led to border wars between the two nations. The unrest fueled the rapid growth of the RSS. The partition of northwestern India had been supported by Mahatma Ghandi, who was urged by the British to give his blessing to the separation of the states. Ghandi was subsequently vilified by Hindu nationalists for having sold out his culture and in January 1948 he was assassinated by a member of the RSS. In response the government briefly banned the organization, but the ban was overturned by the Indian Supreme Court.
In the decades since 1948 the RSS has been banned grown into a mass organization of approximately 1.3 million members. The RSS is organized along hierarchical lines, with the Sarsanghachalak, or Supreme Organizational Director at the top. The current Supreme Organizational Director of the RSS is K.S. Sudarshan.
As the war turned against the Axis Powers and the crimes of Nazi Germany were revealed, Hindu nationalists rejected any explicit ties between their movements and either National Socialism or Italian Fascism. However, the ideological influence of Germany and Italy remains strong in the Hindutva movement to the present day.
"The idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people... India and particularly Hindu Indians need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus: so that the artificial distinction so much emphasised by the British of martial and non–martial classes amongst the Hindus may disappear. ... Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of Nagpur under Dr. Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived. I will spend the rest of my life in developing and extending this Institution of Dr. Hedgewar all throughout Maharashtra and other provinces." -- Dr. B.S. Moonje, Diary Entry
"Leaders should imitate the youth movement of Germany and the Balilla and Fascist organizations of Italy. I think they are eminently suited for introduction in India, adapting them to suit the special conditions. I have been very much impressed by these movements and I have seen their activities with my own eyes in all details." -- 'Dr. B.S. Moonje on the Round Table Conference,' an interview in The Mahratta, April 12, 1931.
"This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary." -- Dr. B.S. Moonje, "Preface to the Scheme of the Central Hindu Military Society and its Military School"
"I absolutely disbelieve in perpetual peace which is detrimental and negative to the fundamental virtues of man, which only by struggle reveal themselves in the light of the sun. ... War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to meet it. ... Fascism believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of pacifism, which is born of renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice." -- Quotations from Benito Mussolini, "Doctrine of Fascism," in Dr. B.S. Moonje, "Preface to the Scheme of the Central Hindu Military Society and its Military School"
"Who are we to dictate to Germany, Japan, or Russia, or Italy to choose a particular form of policy of government simply because we woo it out of academical attraction? Surely Hitler knows better than Pandit Nehru does what suits Germany best. The very fact that Germany or Italy has so wonderfully recovered and grown so powerful as never before at the touch of Nazi or Fascist magical wand is enough to prove that those political “isms” were the most congenial tonics their health demanded. India may choose or reject particular form of government, in accordance with her political requirements. But Pandit went out of his way when he took sides in the name of all Indians against Germany or Italy. Pandit Nehru might claim to express the Congress section in India at the most. But it should be made clear to the German, Italian, or Japanese public that crores of Hindu Sanghatanists in India whom neither Pandit Nehru nor the Congress represents, cherish no ill-will towards Germany or Italy or Japan or any other country in the world simply because they had chosen a form of government or constitutional policy which they though (sic) suited best and contributed most to their national solidarity and strength." -- Speech of V.D. Savarkar, August 1, 1938, quoted in Marzia Casolari, "Hindutva's Foreign Tie-Up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence"
"As far as the Czechoslovakia question was concerned the Hindu Sanghatanists in India hold that Germany was perfectly justified in uniting the Austrian and Sudeten Germans under the German flag. Democracy itself demanded that the will of the people must prevail in choosing their own government. Germany demanded plebiscite, the Germans under the Czechs wanted to join their kith and kin in Germany. It was the Czechs who were acting against the principle of democracy in holding the Germans under a foreign sway against their will. ... Now that Germany is strong why should she not strike to unite all Germans and consolidate them into a Pan-German state and realize the political dream which generations of German people cherished." -- Speech of V.D. Savarkar, August 1, 1938, quoted in Marzia Casolari, "Hindutva's Foreign Tie-Up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence"
"The Aryans who settled in India at the dawn of history already formed a nation, now embodied in the Hindus.... Hindus are bound together not only by the tie of the love they bear to a common fatherland and by the common blood that courses through their veins and keeps our hearts throbbing and our affection warm but also by the tie of the common homage we pay to our great civilization, our Hindu culture." -- V.D. Savarkar, V.D. Savarkar, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu, p. 108
The Bharatiya Janata Party is the political arm of the RSS and other Hindutva organizations. Founded in 1980, the BJP has in the decades since become one of India's two largest political parties. In 1998 it won the largest democratic election in the history of the world. Shortly after coming to power it exploded an atomic bomb. Pakistan soon followed. Southern Asia was now in a thermonuclear arms race.
The "Plaque Removal Incident"
In August 2004, member of the right-wing BJP and RSS parties (also known as the he National Democratic Alliance) caused a near riot in the Indian Parliament after the government ordered the removal of a memorial plaque to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar from the Cellular Jail in Port Blair. Savarkar, an extreme Hindu nationalist and proponent of "Saffron Fascism" was alleged to have taken part in the conspiracy that resulted in the assassination of Mahatma Ghandi by an RSS member on January 30, 1948.
"You are fortunate having been born in a country of glorious cultural traditions and a colossal manpower. I am impressed by the burning passion with which you and your Netaji seek to liberate your country from foreign domination. Your Netaji's status is even greater than mine. While I am the leader of eighty million Germans, he is the leader of 400 million Indians. In all respects he is a greater leader and a greater general than myself. I salute him, and Germany salutes him. It is the duty of all Indians to accept him as their führer and obey him implicitly. I have no doubt that if you do this, his guidance will lead India very soon to freedom. ...German civilians, soldiers and free Indians! I take this opportunity to welcome your acting Führer, Herr Subhas Chandra Bose. He has come here to guide all those free Indians who love their country and are determined to free it from foreign yoke. It is too much for me to dare to give you any instructions or advice because you are sons of a free country, and you would naturally like to obey implicitly the accredited leader of your own land." -- Adolf Hitler, Speech to trainees of the Indian Legion of Subhas Bose in Dresden, Germany, 1943. Quoted in Sopan, (ed.), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: His Life and Work (Bombay: Azad Bhandar, 1946), pp. 281ff.
"We have succeeded in prevailing upon the Indian nationalist leader, Bose, to issue an imposing declaration of war against England. It will be published most prominently in the German press and commented upon. In that way we shall now begin our official fight on behalf of India, even though we don't as yet admit it openly." -- Joseph Goebbels, in Louis P. Lochner (ed.), The Goebbles Diaries, 1942-1943 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1970), p. 107.
"The Führer readily agreed with Oshima that it was better for Bose to shift his activities to Southeast Asia now that his country's (Japan's) armies had overrun the area. The second problem was whether Bose would get enough support in Tokyo for his activities. On this, Oshima had contacted Tokyo many times but had not received any firm answer. Finally, Tokyo replied to Oshima that in principle it had no objection to Bose's visit to Japan. The third problem was to provide Bose with a safe means of transport to Japan. Communication between Germany and Japan was impossible during those days. Passage by boat was ruled out; and it was decided to use a plane belonging to the Lufthansa Company to airlift Bose from Germany to Japan via the Soviet Union. Tojo (Japanese Prime Minister) objected to this on the grounds that this would amount to a breach of trust with the Soviet Union. An attempt was made by both Yamamoto and Bose to get an Italian plane, but this also did not work. Finally the choice fell on a submarine. Germany agreed to carry Bose up to a certain unknown point in the east and asked that a Japanese submarine be pressed into service thence forward. After a series of exchanges with his government, Oshima finally obtained Tokyo's approval of the plan and communicated it to Bose." -- Record of Meeting between Japanese Ambassador Oshima and Adolf Hitler concerning the Indian National Army, January-February 1943. See Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Subhas Chandra Bose and Japan (Tokyo: Government of Japan, 1956).
"Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the Swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning and the ardent championship of the tradition of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope. Only a few socialists headed by Pandit J Nehru have created a bubble of resentment against the present government of Germany, but their activities are far from having any significance in India. The vain imprecations of Mahatma Gandhi against Germany’s indispensable vigour in matters of internal policy obtain but little regard insofar as they are uttered by a man who has always betrayed and confused the country with an affected mysticism. I think that Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture will bring all the Aryan nations of the world to their senses and awaken the Indian Hindus for the restoration of their lost glory." -- Statement by Spokesman of the Hindu Mahasabha (Hindu Party), March 25, 1939, quoted in Marzia Casolari, "Hindutva's Foreign Tie-Up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence"
"Mussolini is a riddle to me. Many of his reforms attract me. He seems to have done much for the peasant class. I admit an iron hand is there. But as violence is the basis of Western society, Mussolini's reforms deserve an impartial study. His care of the poor, his opposition to super-urbanization, his efforts to bring about co-ordination between capital and labour, seem to me to demand special attention. ... My own fundamental objection is that these reforms are compulsory. But it is the same in all democratic institutions. What strikes me is that behind Mussolini's implacability is a desire to serve his people. Even behind his emphatic speeches there is a nucleus of sincerity and of passionate love for his people. It seems to me that the majority of the Italian people love the iron government of Mussolini." -- Letter of Mahatma Ghandi, December 20, 1931. Quoted in Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: A Biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (New York: 1990), p. 277.
New Italy, under the leadership of Signor Mussolini, is roused to its very depths of national consciousness. It feels that it has a mission of introducing a higher type of civilization. It had the urge of becoming a great power again ... Italy must be great through her national power, achieved through the authority of an 'ethical State'. supported by national co-operation and solidarity. ... Every Italian citizen must think first of his duty towards his self-development, welfare of the State and society and make his or her supreme effort to attain the ideal. Class harmony must take the place of the ideal of class-war. So-called democracy must give way to the rule of the aristocracy of intellect. ... Some superficial and prejudiced observers of new Italy have spoken of 'Fascist tyranny' and condemned the Fascist regime. To me it is clear that the Fascist government or a particular official might have made some mistakes on particular occasions; but Fascism stands for liberty with responsibility and it is opposed to all forms of license. It gives precedence to Duty and Strength, as one finds in the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita." -- Tarak Nath Das, "'New Italy and Greater India.'" Modern Review, June 1931, pp. 644f. Quoted in Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj: A Biography of Indian Nationalists Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose (New York: 1990), p. 277.
The inclusion of Mahatma Gandhi quotes on this page is not to suggest that he subscribed to fascist or even quasi fascist beliefs. The Mahatma most certainly did not. Quotations found in the following article concerning Ghandi's Letters to Hitler clearly demonstrate that he did not hold a fascist worldview. Gandhi was, however, a complicated man and a product of his culture. In being so he did on occasion argue in favor of the caste system in India, a discriminatory form of social structuring based on heredity. The foundations of the caste system can be found in ancient Hindu religious texts like the Bhagavad-Gita and the Laws of Manu. A collection of quotations from Hindu religious texts on the foundation of the caste system can be found here. The fact is that even as enlightened a man as Mahatma Gandhi was influenced by the society around him. This illustrates a dimension of the social-political milieu in the 1920s and 1930s within which Hindu nationalism and fascism could find common ground.
"I believe that caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from excrescences. I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. The sooner there is fusion, the better. ... One of my correspondents suggests that we should abolish the caste [system] but adopt the class system of Europe - meaning thereby, I suppose, that the idea of heredity in caste should be rejected. I am inclined to think that the law of heredity is an eternal law and any attempt to alter that law must lead us, as it has before led [others], to utter confusion. ... If Hindus believe, as they must believe, in reincarnation [and] transmigration, they must know that Nature will, without any possibility of mistake, adjust the balance by degrading a Brahmin, if he misbehaves himself, by reincarnating him in a lower division, and translating one who lives the life of a Brahmin in his present incarnation to Brahminhood in his next." -- Mahatma Ghandi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi, 1958-94), Volume XIX, pp. 83f.
"The beauty of the caste system is that it does not base itself upon
distinctions of wealth-possessions. Money, as history has proved, is the
greatest disruptive force in the world. ... Caste is but an extension of the
principle of the family. Both are governed by blood and heredity. Western
scientists are busy trying to prove that heredity is an illusion and that milieu
is everything. The ... experience of many lands goes against the conclusions of
these scientists; but even accepting their doctrine of milieu, it is easy to
prove that milieu can be conserved and developed more through caste than through
class. ... As we all know, change comes very slowly in social life, and thus, as
a matter of fact, caste has allowed new groupings to suit the changes in lives.
But these changes are [as] quiet and easy as a change in the shape of the
clouds. It is difficult to imagine a better harmonious human adjustment.
"I believe that if Hindu society has been able to stand, it is because it is founded on the caste system. ... A community which can create the caste system must be said to possess unique power of organization. ... To destroy the caste system and adopt the Western European social system means that Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary occupation which is the soul of the caste system. [The] hereditary principle is an eternal principle. To change it is to create disorder. ... It will be a chaos if every day a Brahmin is to be changed into a Shudra and a Shudra is to be changed into a Brahmin. The caste system is a natural order of society. ... I am opposed to all those who are out to destroy the caste system." -- Mahatma Gandhi conversation quoted in Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches (Bombay, 1979-93, Volume IX, p. 275f.
"In accepting the fourfold division I am simply accepting the laws of Nature, taking for granted what is inherent in human nature and the law of heredity. ... [But] it is not possible in one birth entirely to undo the results of our past doings. ... So ugly did he find Western-style competition that he would prohibit anyone who acquired a skill other than his "hereditary" one from earning a living by the new one." -- Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi, 1958-94), Volume XXIX, pp. 410f.
"There is no harm if a person belonging to one varna acquires the knowledge or science and art specialized in by persons belonging to other varnas. But as far as the way of earning his living his concerned, he must follow the occupation of the varna to which he belongs, which means he must follow the hereditary profession of his forefathers. ... The object of the varna system is to prevent competition and class struggle and class war. I believe in the varna system because it fixes the duties and occupations of persons. ... Varna means the determination of a man's occupation before he is born.... In the varna system no man has any liberty to choose his occupation." -- Mahatma Gandhi conversation quoted in Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches (Bombay, 1979-93, Volume IX, p. 277.
"For me there is no question of superiority or inferiority. A Brahmin who regards himself as a superior being born to look down upon the other castes is not a Brahmin. If he is first [in status] he is so by right of [spiritual] service." -- Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Delhi, 1958-94), Volume XXVI, p. 289.