Mainstream, VOL LII, No 48, November 22, 2014
Nehruvian Framework: Battleground of Progress and Reaction
Saturday 22 November 2014, by
The Nehruvian framework today has become a terrain for the historic battle between the forces of progress and those of Rightwing reaction. It has always been. We have entered a phase where the reactionary forces seek to distort the legacy of the freedom movement by usurping and destroying it. They also seek to destroy everything achieved by India after freedom as a continuation of the ideology of national liberation.
The history of post-independence India has been fashioned around the main contradictions and momentous struggles between the forces of progress and reaction. This struggle is the fulcrum of India’s development. Anyone forge-tting this forgets the nature of the Indian nation. We cannot pose a single question correctly without the help of this chief contradiction and the source of dialectics. What goes by the name of the ‘Nehru framework’ is the most important component of this basic conflict.
It has been a Gramscian terrain of sorts, whereupon various ideological forces have fought for the control of the institutions and for the minds of the people.
Independent India Shows the Way
At the time of independence, India was a back-ward colonial semi-feudal country and economy. It had a weak state apparatus and was not only divided into two countries due to partition; it was divided into hundreds of big and small princely kingdom, seeking to become ‘countries’ on their own; India was on the verge of being balkanised. Most of the princely rulers, whether Hindu or Muslim, generally did not like and recognise India’s freedom.
What goes by the term ‘Nehruvian frame-work’ consists basically of efforts to establish a parliamentary republican political system based upon universal adult franchise without any discrimination, with composite culture and traditions and regions as the social fabric, a powerful, relatively independent economy centred around a strong public sector, evolution of a multi-party system with the right to form different governments in the States and the Centre, a progressive and independent foreign policy, healthy educational system with progressive content, scientific outlook based on strong scientific and technological structures and institutions, and a national outlook in the interest of the whole nation consisting of various beliefs, religions, castes, languages, cultures and so on.
India and the Indian nation did not differentiate between language, community, religion, caste, region, sex, education, culture, tradition and so on. India is the only country in the world which gave universal suffrage to all without discrimination with one stroke of pen on January 26, 1950. It has proved to be a powerful political-constitutional force and weapon in the hands of the Indian people. This is unique in world history.
In other words, the Nehruvian framework was an important vehicle for the building of the Indian nation, and this is a very important point in the context of the present-day events.
The Communist, Left and democratic, republi-can and progressive forces fully supported the struggle for this historic strategy.
The electoral system and legislatures reflected the true aspirations and visions of the Indian people and nation and not simply of the bourgeoisie. It was a continuation of the aspira-tions of the freedom movement and dominated by the progressive, Left and democratic forces. These were the forces which struggled to create a modern India, along with all its contradictions.
It is difficult to imagine today’s strong and modern India without Nehru and his vision. India has now become one of the most powerful nations of the world and a leading one among the developing countries. It has become one of the builders of the BRICS. Its growth rate is second in the world, next only to that of China. It is presently an exporter of finished and advanced basic commodities. The inherent contradictions of the growth demand equitable solutions within the nation.
Development: Real and Hypocritical
Not only the government and the ruling party led by Nehru struggled to fashion a new India; the mass of the people headed by the Left, progressive and democratic movemnts played a crucial role. The Communists played a major role in the process. In this endeavour. there was a kind of progressive united front, formal and informal, of all these forces. Without this unity of thought, policies and actions, modern India could not have been built.
In today’s grim situation, the Nehruvian forces as well as the Left movement have to rethink how to save and rebuild India.
A lot is being talked of ‘development’ now-adays. The Rightwing forces are posing as the sole and real champions of development. This claim is hypocritical. At a time when the firm foundations of India’s development were being laid, these very forces and parties opposed tooth and nail every single aspect of the national policy of development: be it the public sector, heavy machine and iron and steel industry, coal sector, smallscale sector, transition of agriculture to progressive mass based capitalism, nationali-sation of the key sectors including the momentous nationalisation of 14 monopoly banks leading to the spread of banking operations to every nook and corner of the country, independent internal and external policies and so forth. These policies were stubbornly opposed inside and outside Parliament in the name of opposing ‘socialism’ (!) and what not. The Rightwing even sabotaged these policies; they were supported on occasions and unfortunately by the extreme Leftwing elements. That today they want to appear as champions of development is a joke played on the country. People, in particular the younger generation, are being made to forget these outstanding achievements. The entire post-independence history is being blamed for the country’s ills except the period of the present ruling dispensation and that of the Vajpaya-led NDA in 1998-2004.
No force can really be a champion of develop-ment without assimilating the tradition of the freedom movement and without understanding the nature of post-independence developments. It all has a class nature. In the course of this struggle, the feudal and semi-feudal, monopoly and imperialist interests were rolled back, and in many cases eliminated. That is how the broad unity of common action and thoughts of the progressive forces was created. You cannot develop the country without attacking the monopoly, corporate and imperialist interests.
This reality is being sought to be concealed in the garb of caste and communal ideology and politics. An Indian brand of communal-fascism is being manufactured day in and day out as a cover-up and as a measure to split the democratic unity of the masses and the working classes.
The Rightwing fascism-oriented forces are basically the products of the contradictory path of development followed by India. The present ruling group represents the most reactionary segments thrown up by the pre- and post-independence developments, seeking to take the country back to the dark mediaeval ages under the cloak of ‘development’. These are now unfolding themselves, and soon the illusions of many, including of those on the extreme Left, will be removed.
‘Indian Nation’ under Threat
Under the domination of the Sangh Parivar, the very concept and reality of the India nation is under threat. Among the main targets is the great composite culture of the Indian society. Break it, and the Indian nation breaks: this is the extreme reactionary tactics. The Indian nation is being sought to be rejected and replaced by the misleading and hypocritical concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and Hindutva. We fought against British imperialism and colonialism as Indians irrespective of religions and classes. Today India is a powerful nation and country, with contribution from every small and big religion, nationality, group and community. The religion-based interpretation has no leg to stand on before the progressive realities of the country.
This socalled ‘Hinduism’ of the communal variety is qualitatively different from that of Gandhi, Vivekananda, Ramkrishna Mission and such other personalities and institutions. One can be Indian and at the same time Hindu or Muslim whatever without hurting other religions and without harming national integrity. But one cannot be a Hindu nationalist or a Muslim nationalist at the cost of Indian nationalism. Actually there is no hard and fast dividing line between religions, particularly among the labouring classes and in the slums etc. The Rightwing militates against this reality and offends the common man.
It is a well-thought-out diversion from the concrete tasks before the country.
Nehruism and Modern Times
The Nehruvian plank should not become a rigid unchanging one. One need not sing unqualified praises of this concept, as it itself is full of contradictions. In fact it cannot hope to remain alive without taking into account the new developments in all fields. It has to be a changing concept. Even the attitude to the state or public sector cannot remain rigid and unchanging. Nor can one oppose privatisation of every single kind blindly; certain types of privatisation and liberalisation may even help the small scales of production and business. In fact new strategies in accordance with the world and internal market have to be worked out because one cannot remain isolated from the fast-changing world. Nehru’s framework should be remodelled in accordance with these realities.
We are not here to blindly defend Nehru and his policies, many of them were questionable, self-contradictory and subject to criticism. Nehru himself has many pitfalls and should be criticised for them all. The point is: if we take the Nehruvian dimension as representative of progressivism, then it has to be defended and developed as per the new situation.
We are going through the era of STR (scientific and technological revolution). It poses new challenges; the Nehruvian framework was best suited to our country. At the same time, it has to change and update, or it will fail completely. And its failure will only help the Rightwing backward-oriented forces.
The progressive and secular forces have a big task; they cannot simply lay hold of the old concepts; they need to change and develop them according to today’s necessity.
Nehru was a visionary, a personality who encompassed an era, and that is why he was great. He was scientific and practical on the side of progress. He was at the same time utopian to a certain extent. He clearly understood how to raise India on its feet and make it really independent and cooperative. He was a great unifier of the Indian nation and an uncompro-mising anti-imperialist and anti-feudal. He should be suitably criticised but his progressive outlook is a lasting contribution to India’s path of progress. He fought for the unity of all the communities, Hindus and Muslims in particular. He was against imperialism and feudalism. He was prepared to go against monopoly capital. He was in many respects Leftwing, even a Marxist. He in fact helped many to become Marxist. He was a great friend of the national liberation movement and socialism. He represented all that was progressive in capitalism. He was intensely against communalism.
One does not know what would have happened to India if Nehru was not at the helm of affairs, perhaps we would have seen some kind of dictatorship or semi-dictatorship in this country. He and his group were always a beacon of hope for the democrats. The role of personality in history is very important, as exemplified by Nehru.
According to latest newspaper reports, an article in an RSS paper in Kerala has wished that Nathuram Godse should have targeted Nehru rather than Gandhi for partition!! The RSS and BJP have sought to demarcate themselves from the article. But there is a strong anti-Gandhi and anti-Nehru hate feeling in the ‘Sangh Parivar’. In 1948, gatherings in many places organised by the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha had demanded hanging not only of Gandhi and Nehru but even of Sardar Patel! The Sangh Parivar is yet to condemn this history.
And this is where lies the danger. Certain forces are trying to target the traditions and ideology of the freedom movement and of progress and unity of the nation.
Nehru and Nehruism have to be saved from the reactionary onslaughts and distortions, even while making a critical assessment of them. This is an essential part of the obligations of progressive and independent India and the Indian nation.
The author is a Marxist ideologue.