DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 28 JL Nehru (1889—1964)
What was Nehru’s idea of society ? What suggestions did he make to secure a socialistic pattern of society.
In his presidential address at Lahore Congress Session, 1929 he declared : “I must frankly confess that I am a socialist and a republican, and am no believer in kings and princes or in the order which produces the modern kings of industry, who have greater power over the lives and fortunes of the men then even the kings of old feudal aristocracy”.
Again in his second presidential address at Lucknow he said, “Socialism for me is not merely an economic doctrine which I favour ; it is a vital creed which I hold with all my head and heart”. On July 8, 1945 Nehru again advocated progressive socialism as a solution for India’s multitudous economic ills”.
In his address to the students of the Banaras Hindu University on July 17, 1950, he again said, “I understand and appreciate the objectives of socialism…I want equality opportunity. I want every Indian to have necessary clothing and I want him to have good housing conditions and education”.
John Gunther called Pandit Nehru a socialist gentleman and about the development of socialism in Nehru he wrote : “Jail alone did not make him a socialist ..but it gave him the time and opportunity for exhaustive political study and introspection. Generally he was well treated in jail, he was permitted books and writing materials. His ideas on socialism took concrete forms and merged gradually with his nationalism.
He began to see the Indian problems as more than a struggle between rebel nationalists and British imperialists. He became convinced that British imperialism as a capitalist growth was the real enemy and that it must be fought from the socialist as well as a logical nationalist point of view. A logical opponent of British imperialism must be not merely a nationalist but a socialist too.
Nehru was convinced that the key to the solution of the world’s problems and of India’s problems lies in socialism. His visits to the Indian villages that made him actually of the problems of India’s poverty during freedom movement aroused socialist feelings in Nehru. Contacts with the Indian peasants and workers brought tears into his eyes.
Their sorrowful tales of misery and oppression tilled him sorrow and shame, sorrow on account of the growing poverty of % India, shame because of his easy going life and the petty politics of the cities where there was no place for these mass of half-naked and half-fed poor people.
The time which Nehru devoted for two years in 1920-21 to the first hand study of villages influenced his thoughts ’ and enabled him to formulate the socialistic policy of the Indian National Congress. It may, therefore, be said that it was his early contacts with the villagers of India which made him a socialist and convinced him that in socialism lies the only remedy of India’s economic problems.
But Nehru was not an uncritical admirer of socialism. He made a scientific study of the concrete problems and furmulated his own ideas regarding the desirability of the goal and its means. It is thus possible to find a difference in his early concept of socialism and its later concept. However, Nehru never ceased to be a socialist.
Socialism to Nehru meant something more than an economic doctrine. It was to him a philosophy of life and it was as such that it appealed to him. It meant to him ultimately a change in the habits and desires of men. In short, it meant, to him new civilization. He interpreted it in all its aspects – moral, ethical, social and economic.
He did not agree with the one-sided economic interpretation of it. At Lahore session he said, “We must realize that the philosophy of socialism has gradually permeated the entire structure of society the world over and the only points in dispute are the pace – and methods of advance to its full realization”. To Nehru, thus, socialism had many aspects.
In the beginning, Nehru was impressed by fabian socialism and considered Webb’s Nehru on Russia bearing an imperishable value. But as the fabians were remotely connected with the workers as their object was to transfer ownership not to workers but to the society, so Nehru called them merely “advanced liberal intellectuals”.
It was the Marxian form of socialism which attracted Nehru in the 1930s. He hailed Marx as a major prophet to Russia and a possible inspiration to the troubled world. In a letter to an Englishman in 1936, he wrote, “It may be that Marx overstates the case for a materialistic or economic interpretation of history. Perhaps he did so for the simple reason that it had been largely ignored or at any rate very much understated till then.
But Marx never denied the influence of other factors on the shaping of events. He laid the greatest stress on the economic factor. Whether that stress was little overdone does not make much difference. The fact remains, 1 think, that his interpretation of history is the only one which does explain history to some extent and give its meaning. It helps us to understand the present and it is quite remarkable how many of his predictions have come true.”
Regarding the revolutionary aspect of Marxian socialism he farther wrote : “I think it is possible in theory to establish socialism by democratic means provided of course the full democratic process is available. In practice however, they are likely to be very great difficulties because the opponents of socialism will reject the democratic method when they see their power threatened. The democratic method has many triumphs to its credit, bat I do not know that it has yet succeeded in resolving a conflict about the very basic structure of the state or of society”.
But it does not mean that Nehru advocated voilence in Lenin’s way. He was not a blind believer in the theory of Marxism. As he came more and more in contact with Gandhi he felt that ends cannot be separated from means. The violent side of Marxian philosophy did not mak much appeal to him.
He did not agree with the violent methods to establish a classless society, though on some occasions he said that violence not limitless but only necessary could be used provided it was used out of good intentions and good faith to remove an evil. He felt that if we can achieve our goal peacefully it is good, but if we cannot achieve it peacefully, let us use force. Nehru was a Marxist but he was not a doctrinnaire Marxist.
The Marxian philosophy appealed to him in a broad sense. It helped him to understand the process of history. He said that though Soviet Russia may provide us with an example of the practical benefits of a communist state, yet the success or failure of Russia does not determine the soundness of the Marxian principles.
The socialism of Nehru can be compared with empirical collectivism or popularly known as “state socialism” which seeks to retain the state and use it as the means for the attainment of social justice. Collectivism, according to Nehru, did not mean abolition of private property except in a restricted sense.
It of course means the public ownership of the basic and major industries. In his presidential address at Lucknow he said, “That means the ending of private property except in a restricted sense and the replacement of the present system by higher ideal of cooperative service. It means ultimately a change in our instincts and habits and desires.
In short, it means a new civilization radically different from the present capitalist order.” Nehru wanted a peaceful transformation of the present social structure and would not advocate any such methods as would disrupt the society instead of integrating it.
The belief in socialism, was thus, a cardinal feature of Nehru’s political ideas, like Marx Adler, he believed in ethical socialism who regarded socilaism not merely as a formula for economic reconstruction but also a philosophy of life.
His ideas on socialism are partly similar to those of the German state socialists – Wagner, Schmoller,- Knies, eic. He did not subscribe to the view that socialism is wholly equivalent to accentuation of production through electrification and nationalization of Industries. He also gave a place to the rural industries and Khadi in his scheme of economic reconstruction.
Under the leadership of Nehru, the Indian National Congress accepted the ideal of a socialistic pattern of society at the Avadi session in January, 1955. Nehru believed at this time in feasibility of mixed economy. While on the one hand he believed in the nationalization of some industries, as well as in the setting up by the state of new industries, he simultaneously provided an important place to the private sector.
It is this concept of ‘mixed economy’ which points out the difference in his ideas on socialism in 1933 with those he held in 1955. While he sanctioned help to industries, he also gave place of honour to the private sector of economy.
In the three five-year plans which were drafted under his chairmanship, vast amount of money was provided for the development of private sector. There has been some criticism of the concept of mixed economy yet there can be no doubt that Nehru played a dominant role in putting Indian economy on the wheels of development.
Discuss Nehru’s Idea about Religion.
Nehru was secularist in his approach. His secularism proceeded from his liberal cultural upbringings. His attitude in the matter of religion is quite explicit, rational and humane. Religion appealed to him in an ethical sense and not in a dogmatic sen e as belief in some particular Gods.
Nehru wrote : “Probably to no two persons will the same complex of ideas and images arises on hearing or on reading this word (Religion). Among these ideas and Images are rites, sacred books, dogmas, morals, love, fear, hatred, charity, sacrifice, ascerticism, fasting, feasting death, next world, riots and breaking of heads”.
Thus, Nehru’s attitude on religion is not that of a sentimentalist. He takes a scientific view of religion understanding it more in a humane sense than in an orthodox sense. In his concept of religion, he was free from any touch of sentimentalism. It had a plain meaning with him and did not mean renunciation of. life for knowing the mysteries of the unknown.
He had a scientific and not mystical approach to understand the problems of the life. Mysticism irritated him and appeared to be vogue and soft and flabby, not a religious discipline of mind but a surrender of mental faculties and a living in area of emotional experience.
It may be pointed out that Nehru was not opposed to the concept of religion as such. What he was opposed to was its mystical interpretation devoid of scientific approach but full of superstitious dogmas, ceremonial practices, beliefs and faiths. He wrote, “Religions have helped greatly in the development of humanity.
They had laid down values and standards and have pointed and principles for the guidance of human life. But with all the good they have done, they have also tried to imprison truth in set forms. Instead of encouraging incu-riosity and thought they have preached a philosophy of submission to nature, to the establish church, to the prevailing social order and to everything that is.
The belief in supernatural agency which ordains everything has led to a certain irresponsibility on the social plane, and emotion and sentimentality have taken the place of reasoned thought and enquiry”.
Thus, it was the ethical side of the religion which made a appeal to Nehru. It has virtually synonymous with morality for him. According to him, religion should make him a man virtuous, tolerant, thoughtful, active, disciplined and fearless and not superstitious, idle and fearful of supernatural elements. It should make him patriotic and not dogmatic rational and not emotional.
In his concept of religion, it may be said, Nehru even made improvement upon Mahatma Gandhi. Nehru said, “I felt angry with him at his religious and sentimental approach to a political question and his frequent references to God in connection with it. He even seemed to suggest that God had indicated the very date of the fast.
What a terrible example he set”. Nehru was quite free from any touch of sentimentalism in his concept excludes bigotry and dogmatism. He was influenced more by its ethical side than by its superstitious aspects. He however, felt from the concept of religion, at least it must be conditioned as far as possible by the scientific method.
Thus, when religion is understood in the sense in which Nehru understood it, little scope is left over for religious conflicts or communalism, because in the true sense religion is one and not many. The people may believe in different faiths but all religions are one. Religion in its true sense is devoid of all dogmas and superstitions, mysticism and irrationalism. Reasoned thought and enquiry should take the place of emotion and sentimentality.
Nehru’s belief in religion understood in a scientific sense strengthened his secularism. He was a vehement critic of communal approach to the political problems. In his Autobiography he condemned the leaders of Hindu Mahasabha as reactionaries and spokesman of upper class interest.
In one of his speeches he said, “It is significant that the principal communal leaders, Hindu or Muslim or others, are political reactionaries, quite apart from the communal question. It is sad to think how they have aided with British imperialism, in vital matters, how they have given their approval to the suppression of civil liberty, how during these years of agony they sought to gain narrow profit for their group at the expense of the larger cause of freedom, with them,, there can be no co-operation, for that would mean co-operation with reaction.” Nehru was a devastating critic of the Hindu Mahasabha.
In short, Nehru laid emphasis on secularist democracy. Under his guidance, the Constitution of India was drafted on secular lines which provides adequate safeguards to the minorities. He throughout his life had been a great opponent of narrow – religious or communal outlook in politics.
He was not prepared to tolerate any kind of communalism. On June 3, 1950 he spoke out, “So far as the issue of communalism is concerned, 1 shall give no quarter to anybody, I shall be prepared to fight it to the utmost anybody, anywhere and every-where, it raises its head”. In the Constituent Assembly he made its absolutely clear that the Indian state is a secular state and that in it there is no quarter for any religious fanaticism whatsoever. He said : “We have talked a great deal about politics being allied to ethics : that is something, which I hope, we shall always stand for.
But the combination of politics and of religion in the narrowest sense of the word resulting in communal politics is a most dangerous combination and must be put an end to. It is clear that this combination is harmful to country as a whole, it is harmful to the majority, but probably it is most harmful to any minority that seeks to have some advantage from it”.
At another place, he said, “Politics considered in terms of religious communities is wholly inconsistent with both democracy and any modern conception of politics. To give in to this medieval conception is to throw back the whole course of development, political and economic and try to build a structure which does not fit in with the realities of today in any department of life”.
What was the attitude of Nehru towards communism ?
What was Nehru’s reaction to Marxism ? Discuss.
Jawaharlal Nehru visited Soviet Russia in November, 1927 and was very much impressed by the great achievements of that country in the field of education and the betterment of the conditions of the lower strata of population, He found that Russia had no expansionist designs.
Writing on Soviet Russia he said, “No one can deny the fascination of this strange Eurasion country of the hammer and sickle, where workers and peasants sit upon the throne of the mighty and upset the best laid schemes of mice and men”. He inevitably turned to communism “for whatsoever its faults it was at least not hypocritical and not imperialistic”.
In his reaction to Marxism and Leninism, he wrote in his “Discovery of India”, “A study of Marx and Lenin produced a powerful effect on my mind and helped me to see history and current affairs in a new light… Much in the Marxist philosophical outlook I could accept without difficulty its monism and non-duality of mind and matter, the dynamics of matter and the dialectic of continuous change by evolution as well as leap, through action and interaction cause and effect, thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
It did not satisfy me completely nor did it answer all the questions iu my mind and almost unawares, a vague idealist approach would creep into my mind, something rather akin to the Vedanta approach. Also there was the background of ethics. I realized that the moral approach is a changing one and depends upon the growing mind and an advancing civilization it is conditioned by the mental climate of the age.
Yet there was something more to it than that, certain basic urges which had greater permanence. I did not like the frequent divorce in communication, as in other, practice between action and then basic urges or principles … the general Marxist approach, fitting in as it more or less did with the present state of scientific knowledge seemed to me to offer considerable help.
But even accepting that approach, the consequences that flow from it and the interpretation on past and present happenings were by no means always clear. Marx’s general analysis of social development seems to have been remarkably correct, and yet many developments took place later which did not fit in with his out-look for the immediate future”.
Regarding Marx’s emphasis on the materialistic interpretation of history, he wrote : “It may be that Marx overstates the case for a materialist or economic interpretation of history. Perhaps he did so for the simple reason that it had been largely ignored or at any rate very much understand till then. But Marx never denied the influence of other factors on the shaping of events.
He laid the greatest stress on one – the economic factor. Whether that stress was a little overdone does not make much difference. The fact remains, I think, that his interpretation of history is the only one which does explain history to some extent and give it meaning. It helps us to understand the present and it is quite remarkable how many of his predictions have come true”.
Regarding the revolutionary means of Marxism he further wrote: “I think, it is possible in theory to establish socialism by democratic means provided of course the full democratic process is available. In practice, however, there are likely to be very great difficulties because the opponents of socialism will reject the democratic method when they see their power threatened. The democratic method has many triumphs to its credit, but I do not know that it has yet succeeded in resolving a conflict about the very base structure of the state or of society”.
From the above statements made by Nehru it is clear that he was impressed by Marxism. He even hailed Marx as a major prophet to Russia and a possible inspiration to the troubled world. But it may not be presumed that Nehru accepted everything taught by Marx and Lenin. He did not approve of many things that have taken place in Russia. As he came more and more in contact with Mahatma Gandhi, he felt that ends cannot be separated from means.
The violent side of Marxian philosophy did not make his much appeal. He did not agree with the violent methods to establish a classless society ; though on some occasions it could be used but only as much as is necessary. He believed that if we can achieve our goal peacefully it is good ; but if we cannot achieve it peacefully, let us use force.
But there should be no mistake on that account to understand Nehru. The Marxian philosophy appeals to him in a broad sense.
It helps him to understand the process of history. He is far from being an orthodox Marxist and is strongly opposed to doctrinairism. He argued that though Soviet Russia may provide us with an example of the practical benefits of communist state ; yet the success or failure of Russia does not determine the soundness or unsoundness erf the Marxian principles.
He wrote : “We must realise that the Soviet Russia has erred aggregariously in many matters and based itself too much on violence, opportunism and authoritarianism. They have not sought to keep their means above reapproach and so their ends are being twisted to fit it with those means.
Means are not ends thought they control them. But means must be a keeping with the ends or else, the end itself becomes a mishapren thing totally different from the objective aimed at. We extend our friendly sympathy to the socialism of Russia but we do not give our sympathy to the political manouvres and aggression of Russia’s government”.
It is thus evident that Nehru never agreed with the whole of Marxism. He disliked its philosophy of dialectical materialism, violence and dictatorship. As a champion of democracy he refused to sanction the hostility and brutalities that have been associated with communism in action. He also felt that the advances in human thought have made Marxism in the liberal nineteenth century sense outdated.
It stands in needs of considerable modification and revision. In 1952, he said that hundred years of development in the fields of philosophy, science and economic thought have rendered Marxism out-of-date. In his speeches in Singapore in June, 1950, he called the communist movement in Asia to be an enemy in nationalism. The Chinese aggression on India made him a further enemy of communism. He even came to be regarded at the greatest antidote to the advance of communism in India and other parts of Asia.
It is therefore, clear that with the advance of years and change of times, the old emotional attachment of Nehru to Marxism underwent a change to a great extent. Probably his attachment to Marxism in pre-independence days was generated partly as a reaction or as a psychological consolation against English imperialism.
But with the assumption of administrative responsibilities as Prime Minister and with the revelation of the devastating technique of international communism and with the behaviour of the Indian Communist Party, his leanings towards communism were consider¬ably toned down if not absolutely withered away. ,