“… 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”.
In years that followed, the brilliant, eclectic Bengali would occasionally modify this radical doctrine, but would never abandon it entirely. For example, in late 1944 – almost a decade-and-a-half later – in a speech to students at Tokyo University, he asserted that India must have a political system “of an authoritarian character… To repeat once again, our philosophy should be a synthesis between National Socialism and Communism.”
In the wake of the crushing defeat in 1945 of Hitler and Mussolini, “fascism” has arguably been the most despised of all political ideologies. Postwar western society recognizes no fascist heroics, and even considers “fascist” traits – particularly the authoritarian, charismatic, personal style of leadership, and the positive evaluation of violence and the willingness to use it for political purposes – to be decidedly unpalatable. In India, though, Bose is regarded as a national hero, in spite of his repeated praise (as will be shown) for autocratic leadership and authoritarian government, and admiration for the European fascist regimes with which he allied himself.
Like the leaders he admired in Italy and Germany, Bose was (and still is) popularly known as Netaji, or “revered leader.” “His name,” explains Mihir Bose (no relation), one of Subhash many biographers, “is given [in India] to parks, roads, buildings, sports stadiums, artificial lakes; his statues stand in place of those of discarded British heroes and his photograph adorns thousands of calendars and millions of pan (betel-nut) shops.” It is always the same portrait, continues the writer: Bose in his Indian National Army uniform, “exhorting his countrymen forward to one last glorious struggle.”
No less a figure than Gandhi paid tribute to Bose’s remarkable courage and devotion. Six months after his death in an airplane crash on August 18, 1945, Gandhi declared: “The hypnotism of the Indian National Army has cast its spell upon us. Netaji’s name is one to conjure with. His patriotism is second to none… His bravery shines through all his actions. He aimed high and failed. But who has not failed.”
On another occasion Gandhi eulogized: “Netaji will remain immortal for all time to come for his service to India.”
Many of Bose’s admirers have been inclined to downplay or even ignore the fascist elements in his ideology, and even to pretend they never existed. For example, the text of Bose’s inaugural speech as mayor of Calcutta, cited above, was reprinted in a laudatory 1970 “Netaji Birthday Supplement” of the Calcutta Municipal Gazette, but with all references to fascism, including his support for a synthesis of fascism and socialism, carefully deleted.
Several admiring biographers have found it easier to ignore the fascist elements in his ideology than to explain them. Their subjective accounts do not even inform the reader that Bose spoke positively about some features of fascism, or else, in an attempt to remove from their hero any possible taint, they qualify his remarks in ways that he himself did not.