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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 47 New Delhi November 12, 2016

Validity of Nehru

Thursday 17 November 2016, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

November 14 this year marks Jawaharlal Nehru’s 127th birth anniversary. On this occasion we are reproducing the following editorial by N.C. published in the Mainstream issue that came out on the third death anniversary of our first PM. Thereafter we are carrying excerpts from Nehru’s speeches, writings and interviews that are highly relevant in the current Indian scenario. Some articles on Nehru published at different times in this journal and a couple of pieces written of late are also being presented here.

This week free India mourns afresh the passing of its chief architect. The events of the last three years, and particularly the new situation thrown up by the Fourth General Election, have only helped to underline the continuing validity of Jawaharlal Nehru’s ideas and general direction of approach to the task of building a socialist India.

In what amounts to a fitting anniversary-eve tribute, even those who, yielding to pressures from big business and foreign influences, had chosen deliberately to deviate from the Nehru path, have tacitly acknowledged that the Indian context today allows of no course other than the one chalked out by Jawaharlal Nehru. The Congress Working Committee’s recent resolu-tion—however inadequate to present needs and whatever the motives that led the disparate elements in it to accept the resolution—is significant because it represents a rather shamefaced admission by the party’s leadership in both the organisational and administrative wings that its total alienation from the masses is mainly because of such deviation and the failure to implement honestly the policies implicit in the Nehru line. The electoral verdict against the Congress was undoubtedly due in a large measure to the feeling among the people that after Nehru there is no section in the party’s leadership strong enough to withstand bamboozling by vested interests and their friends abroad. In other words, the people felt with justification that with the Congress constituted as it is, radical measures aimed at transforming the national economy were not to be expected.

It will no doubt be pointed out that Jawaharlal Nehru himself did not carry out his own policies to their logical conclusion: that he wavered, compromised at almost every crucial stage, and generally acted in such a way that, despite his leadership and his constant reminders about the national goal, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer; that he set goals but was not strong or determined enough to get them achieved within prescribed time-limits.

Such criticism has substance but represents only part of the truth. When assessing Nehru, two important factors have to be borne in mind: one, that his very presence was enough to reassure the people that even if mistakes were made they would be rectified in due course; and two, that the instrument by which he had to transform his ideas into reality had neither the collective calibre nor the cadres needed for the historic task.

Perhaps Nehru can be legitimately charged with having deliberately chosen the available national organisation despite its patent inner contradictions in the hope of being able to transform it into an instrument for socialist construction instead of seeking to forge a more purposeful and single-minded organisation with the help of the progressive forces in the country. But to pose the question thus would be to ignore the many contradictions inherent in the then prevailing situation, including the fact that the Leftists as a whole permitted themselves the luxury of drifting without direction and did not lend themselves to be moulded into such a vital organisation. It would also be incorrect to over-look Nehru’s own background and compulsion.

The contribution that Nehru made is not so much in the positive achievements in the socio-economic sphere—although these were by no means inconsiderable—but in the kind of political and economic thinking he set in motion. It is unfair to hold the indecision and lack of grip which marked his declining years against him, or to blame him for the failure of the political situation to throw up men of stature and dedication who could replace him while he was still alive. What have grown in the Congress party during the years of freedom are mostly mushrooms of various kinds; the dedicated Congressman is the exception rather than the rule. That is why when Jawaharlal died the vested interests, which had already mounted a campaign against him taking advantage of the Chinese attack, decided that the time had come to make a concerted bid for power: this had to be mainly through the Congress and partly through the Swatantra Party and the Jan Sangh.

Not only the resolution of the Congress Working Committee but even the minimum programmes of the United Front governments of West Bengal and Kerala constitute a post-Nehru justification of Nehruism. On the part of the Congress the attempt is perhaps no more than to restore the image of the party to the extent feasible in the face of Rightwing pressures. On the part of the Leftist coalitions it is an admission that the Nehru philosophy of transformation through democratic processes is the only viable one in the present context. The Leftist coalitions have one advantage which the Congress continues to lack: the availability of dedicated leadership and cadres who, given the grit and determination, have the capacity to introduce and get implemented the radical measures which alone can lead to the India of Nehru’s dreams.

So far as the Congress is concerned, since it still is in power at the Centre and in some States, its leaders continue to have a chance to prove their sincerity and honesty of purpose. The resolution adopted recently will mean precisely nothing if speedy steps are not taken to make the resources of private banking institutions available for developing the public sector, if dependence on foreign countries for basic food needs is not ended quickly, if monopoly is not curbed and big business houses are not eliminated step by step, if prices are not brought down and reasonable minimum wages are not ensured, and if a conscious programme is not introduced to reduce regional economic imbalances on a noticeable scale.

The present Prime Minister in the last 17 months has allowed herself to be a plaything in the hands of unscrupulous adventurers, climbers and agents of indigenous and foreign vested interests. But she still has an opportunity to stop the drift downhill and bring the country back to the Nehru path. If she displays in this matter the same determination she showed in backing Dr Zakir Hussain and getting him elected, she and the Congress may not have to be written off altogether. In fact, there is still time and opportunity for Srimati Indira Gandhi to continue the task from where her great father left off. But the first requirement is that she should give up dependence on those elements in her party who have always worked against Jawaharlal and his ideas, and regain the support of those sections which have been fighting for adherence to the Nehru path.

As for the Left Opposition at the Centre and Leftists in government in the States, their task is to exert increasing pressure on the Union Government to act in conformity with the Nehru ideals in the social and economic spheres. They can make a start with the questions of bank nationalisation and justice for the working class. Pressure from the Right can only be countered by greater pressure from the Left; and the latter has the advantage of being in the interests of the common people and hence capable of mustering massive popular support. This then is the task that the Left should set for itself in the immediate future: if later on a situation arises in which the Leftist forces feel confident of taking over at the Centre and quickening the pace of progress towards socialism, no doubt the progressive elements in the Congress will bless such a development even if initially they may have qualms about a backing it openly.

(Mainstream, May 27, 1967)